It depends on who’s asking and who’s answering.
Yes, we all know social media was helping teens grow and prosper before this pandemic, right?
Moreover, 15 minutes of fame unfolding on their teenage road trip through adolescent development.
Most parents, not to mention teachers, counselors, and even admins, were having a tough enough time helping teens struggle with anxiety and perfectionism—how can we help them like who they are?
Moreover, Measuring themselves against unrealistic standards; Becoming more perfectionistic overtime on their road trip.
Does no one want to ride (hang out) with me?
Am I a failure at school?
My other friends seem happy—what’s wrong with me?
And now, with this journey, we are on in this pandemic?
Most teens look to be a scene right out of “Identity Thief.”
Schools provide teens with ’a space’ to think independently, experiment, form support networks with peers. Now?
You all tell me. From my perspective, it looks to be stolen, right?
Ascending and then transcending to online classrooms where the ‘magic’ of teaching and learning occurs now directly in harm in the middle of this pandemic.
Taking away space for building teens’ identities. Impacting their overall well-being and ongoing development.
Grief and the grieving process on the significance of the loss of their peer relationships and friendships. Especially on their mental health and well-being.
Something I know a great deal about from my decades of work as a psychologist and as an educator (graduate teaching fellowship in teacher education and curriculum development at the Graduate School of Education, University of Oregon).
To say nothing of teens’ learning to navigate or find affirmation in our broader social context.
With school closures and now recurrent social distancing, this is especially challenging for them.
Why is this happening, you ask? I’m asking myself the very same question as you. And, with all my training, decades of practical experience, I wish I had the exact genuine answers to give you.
This optics (challenge, frustration, issues, and problem) reminds me of Adlerian procedures: listening for encouragement-focused themes in ‘Style of Life.’
“How would our (your) life be different if we (you) no longer had this problem anymore?
“Suppose I gave you a pill . . .”
“What if we (you) had a magic wand. . .”
“What if we (you) woke up tomorrow and no longer had this problem?”
But I know there are steps we (you) can take to improve our adolescents’ ongoing development, mental health, and well being on their road trip through this pandemic and then beyond. And we need to start doing so, now.
Past studies, and ones emerging during this pandemic, continue to discover that self-concept (teens’ perception of self; sensemaking) plays a central role in their emotional well being.
Does this come as a surprise? It should not. They are no different than us in this regard. Are we not all the same?
Is this not a mutual atmospherics, landscape, and optics for us in our adult lifespan?
Our Peer Groups and Social Connections
I know. I feel it, too, just as you all do. We all are including our teenagers on their road trip through this pandemic.
Having our relationships with colleagues, friends, and peers compromised or even worse shoved sideways, often key, in the context for our development of identity.
Emotionally, taxing? Yes. And physically as well—mandatory 6-feet social distancing with face coverings masking our unique individuality to express ourselves to one another on so many fronts and levels.
We need to take a negative (social media, cellphones, iPads, laptops, desktops ad nauseam) and turn this into a positive to ascend and transcend—maintaining or forming affinities and alliance groups, interest-based clubs, and even purposeful group projects.
I say this knowing that there is a caveat here, as many of my colleagues remind us. Social media is not a substitute for personal interaction. Yes, I know parents, including myself, are concerned (as they should be) about the amount of time adolescents like many of us are spending online.
I have been exploring and recommending in my coaching, collaboration, or partnerships that neighborhood communities (your immediate neighbors, families) engage in group projects that require you all to reach out to and collaborate.
Establish learning circles with teens (immediate neighbors comparable in age and grade level)—establishing routines and schedules that provide a sense of stability—cooperative peer-learning, support, and tutoring to socialize and do academic work—creating opportunities to feel competent. Circumnavigate the pressure to keep up with their peers.
Using technology (internet, social media, digital devices) as mediums (protagonist) to navigate falling behind can become a resource (instead of an antagonist) to minimize undermining teens’ perception of themselves as a good student and as a community member.
Just as they are for us as adults, these relationships help us stay connected to school and work. They enhance our understanding of who we are as a learner in this pandemic journey. We see first hand what happens in the loss of these relationships—increased anxiety and isolation feelings.
Which often becomes a genuine cause (if not likely a root one) for the risk of superspreader events or incidents further exacerbating the spread of COVID-19.
Being Part of the Solution
Just as we do as adults, our teens want to feel capable—contributing to and feeling valued in their communities. Why would they not in this pandemic where they, just as we as adults do, are contending with powerlessness and helplessness?
They need to feel they have control over their lives. And that they can make a difference. What are your felt needs when you do not?
Our coaching, mentoring efforts need to empower them in a couple of ways, as I am writing elsewhere on other related work.
An important, if not the most, critical communications and messaging, we can pass on to them?
As their parents, teachers, counselors, and admins, we answer the call for finding ways that connect our teens to their own goals and interests. Moreover, the work they are doing in the classroom is genuinely valuable and worthwhile.
To say nothing of aligned with the design, design thinking for sustainability—finding civic engagement opportunities, community service, or volunteering their time.
Changing the lens through which they see the world.
The difference between what we are doing and what we are capable of doing, Mahatma Gandhi said, would solve most of the world’s problems.
Just as we are as adults, our teens are in a crisis with choosing generativity versus stagnation. The tension: I am what survives me.
Moreover, it is this state of being stretched, mental, and emotional strain. And the relationship between ideas or qualities with conflicting demands or implications. That is redefining sanity within this pandemic context.
“Well, here’s another nice mess you’ve gotten me into.” —Laurel and Hardy
To this end, at the finish of this road trip, your teen should not become a lousy souvenir that does not play or work well.
Supportive Coaching: Integrated Approaches to Help Teens
Teens and their parents often are clashing around questions of autonomy and control.
This pandemic heightens these conflicts because parents have to oversee remote learning if not directly instruct their teens. More than naught, this becomes unproductive.
Navigating these waters is emotionally and psychologically challenging for teens and parents.
Most parents, typically, would agree. They are more successful in facilitating supporting their teenagers by establishing work habits, managing time, and motivating their kids, and being coached in how to do so.
Course correcting with someone, like an adolescent coach, caring and skilled in supportive coaching services is critical during this pandemic journey to your teen’s health and ongoing self-development.
Who provides scaffolding—applying various instructional techniques to move our teens progressively toward a more substantial understanding. And greater independence in the learning process. Including opportunities for individual teen check-ins.
So the burden of this does not fall solely on unsupported parents.
In this pandemic, schools recognize and allow our teens to connect and build relationships with other adults like coaches offering supportive coaching: integrated approaches to helping teens.
These independent school systems (ISD) find ways to connect teens with these coaches who are getting results through strong relationships, accountability, self-reflection, improved self-esteem, focus, parental and teacher collaboration, and much more.
Not to mention supportive coaching opportunities for individual check-ins, which are thinking about teens’ needs holistically.
Because losing school routines is causing an increase in feelings of anxiety, loneliness, and isolation.
Even though ISDs are providing mental health services and other supports on-site. This pandemic is making it challenging to identify teens who are in need.
We all need to step up in our communities and ISDs to help make this happen.
Likewise, when coaching teens and their parents. Often the essential element I work with parents on doing. Is helping their teens advocate for themselves. And take greater responsibility for their schoolwork—quality of lifestyle choices, mental health, and managing their well-being.
One of the most significant takeaways parents often discover in Supportive Coaching: Integrated Approaches to Help Teens.
Instead of always ‘doing,’ parents learn to hold their teens accountable for getting the work done. Encouraging and guiding their teens in asking for extra help or support when they need it.
Not to mention, in my decades of experience working with teens. I am never amazed nor surprised in observing how much they crave autonomy and independence.
To say nothing of the prime opportunity—for parents to talk with their teens about how an image is not everything. Neither is 15 minutes of fame and the teenage road trip.
What is essential is their dreams, felt needs, and plans for the future—and improving their mental resilience, health, and productivity along the way.
This pandemic has turned the whole world, inside out, upside down. There’s no going back. Even if we wanted to, we cannot. Just as Thomas Wolfe discovered in his novel, You Can’t Go Home Again. Attempting to relive memories is doomed to failure.
Normal is dead. Maybe it always has been. Or perhaps it should be, now. There is no normal. As Luvvie Ajayi Jones, says:
“Normal packed up its bags and left the keys on the kitchen counter.”
Ways Forward: Next Steps
Let’s get something straight. We need to take a step back and look at our destructive, self-fulfilling prophecies we perpetuate by our cultural beliefs about our teenagers.
Here’s just one of them, for instance.
Kids are ‘not’ hard-wired to become moody and self-absorbed once they hit adolescence. They are so much better than this. And they deserve coaching and parenting to hold them to a better standard.
Are we selling them short when we hand them exemptions from being good citizens in this pandemic journey we are all on going into 2021?
Moreover, just like we are doing for ourselves, as adults? As parents?
Are our teens any different than us? In becoming conscientious, responsible, capable of caring deeply because of a growing collective?
An unexamined conviction? How is it being enabled? As adults and parents, we cannot control ourselves? Why should we, then, expect differently from our teens?
“We must manage better the human side of change where people just aren’t going to inconvenience themselves unless we’re forced to.”
Of course, we can—as adults and as parents. Just as we can and should with our teens as well.
Not to mention, they are doing it all the time in this pandemic and their road trip through it. In school. Among their friends. In front of their parents. There is no reason to accept anything less at home. For them, or us, as adults and parents.
A lot of parenting is outdated. It is even unoriginal. And some of it is just plain tangential if not wrong. Are you ready to change your conversation you are having with your teen?
Wondering. “Is there a teen coach near me?”
I have great news for you all.
Yes, there are. And these coaches are tailoring programs with a focus on relevant issues to meet each teen’s needs and their family.
Teen coaches are doing so worldwide via videoconferencing or locally (depending on guidance and restrictions in place per public health officials) in your metro area.
Teens get to stay in their comfort zone. Such as their room. Or on their device. Simultaneously, creating life and mastering sensemaking on their road trip through this pandemic and beyond.
If Supportive Coaching: Integrated Approaches to Helping Teens sounds like what you seek, let’s connect!
Dr. Mark Rogers is a psychologist dedicated to helping parents raise conscientious, competent, empowered teens they enjoy having around. His work with teens and families is consistent with his belief that accountability, authenticity, respect, transparency, and trust are the cornerstones to healthy, enduring relationships between loved ones.
Find more information here.