Parents of teens— if your kids are having an even harder time than you expected, you are not alone. The trends we are seeing at Virginia Family Therapy highlight that this time is particularly rough on the middle and high schoolers, so we want to give you a few tools to help you and your kids out!!
First of all, we want to make sure the teens know that their difficulties are all normal and to be expected. Their challenges are not a representation of who they really are or who they are going to be, so you can all stop catastrophizing! We just have to help everyone understand why this time is so hard so that the teens can stop beating themselves up. Here’s a metaphor to try with your kids (if they will let you). We hope it helps them, and you, feel a little better!
Going to School is Like Lifting Weights
Getting there on time, doing homework, and exercising reasonable social judgment all takes a considerable amount of strength. And two years ago, our kids had YEARS of building these muscles. Its like they were lifting five pound weights everyday, without fail, with short breaks for the summer.
When schools closed, our kids put their weights down. I don’t blame them— I put my “wear button up pants for work” weights down, too. No more getting up early, paying attention, or studying for hard tests. And no more getting out of my “work clothes” at the end of the day. Athleisure for me all day long!
Then This School Year Started
Kids were asked to pick up their weights again after one and half years off. Only this time the weights weren’t just five pounds— they were fifteen pounds— because they are in a harder grade with greater social and academic expectations. And teachers, parents, and the kids all expect them to be able to keep on lifting and holding their weights up!!!
But it’s hard and kids are getting exhausted. They are worrying that their challenges mean that they aren’t as smart, kind, or good with people as they once thought they were. Their identities are getting rocked and making them even more self-conscious and angsty than teens under normal circumstances!
But we would never ask a weightlifter to to take off a year and a half and then lift more than she ever had before. We would give her time to train, get stronger, and beam with pride at her effort.
So Let’s Talk About It
Let your teens know you see how hard this year is, how hard they are working, and that a normal difficult time is now exacerbated by the pandemic. Exhaustion, muscle fatigue, and even a little failure are okay. But encourage them to keep on getting up and lifting, because the muscles they are building now are going to help them through their whole lives. They are going to realize that they can do hard things, and that their strength in adversity comes from inside. Once they learn how resilient they are, future challenges will seem a little less daunting. They just have to get through these really tough months first.
So hang in there, parents. Remember— your kids don’t get to choose if they go to school, but you might get to choose if you put on those button up pants again. It’s hard on us all right now, but we are hopeful that we will all come out stronger on the other end.
To hear more about parenting through the pandemic, listen to our podcast, Podcast Therapists, found on apple, Spotify, and all the podcast places. Or you can visit us at www.podcasttherapists.com. If you are looking for therapy or psychiatry in Virginia or North Carolina, you can find out more at www.virginiafamilytherapy.com.
Looking for Therapy in Northern Virginia?
Virginia Family Therapy’s Falls Church office is now open, conveniently located in the heart of Northern Virginia near Arlington, Alexandria, and Fairfax! We are accepting new clients for walk-and-talk outdoor, in-office, and virtual therapy sessions.
Learn how to take the first step and connect with someone at Virginia Family Therapy here.