How to Raise Mentally Strong Teens in a Pandemic

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How to Raise Mentally Strong Teens in a Pandemic

Supporting and empowering our youth

By Chan Swee Fen | 23 June 2021

Can your teenager count on you to support them in tough times?

It has been more than a year since the global pandemic upended every aspect of our lives – the way we work and learn, and how we communicate and connect with others.

Even with the vaccination programme being rolled out, it would still take some time before we are completely out of the woods and doing life in a “new normal”.

As parents, even as you learn to cope with ambiguity in a volatile world, your teens want to know that they can count on you to hold their hands as they continue to ride the roller coaster of change and uncertainty in this ongoing pandemic.

How can you raise your teens to be mentally strong and resilient? What are some practical strategies you can implement to provide extra support to your teenagers?

  1. Teach them to identify “thinking traps”
    The philosopher Epictetus asserts, “People are disturbed not by what happened, but by the view which they take of them.”

    Help your teenager understand that their thinking affects how they feel and behave. It is not the event per se that causes emotional issues but the meaning they put into these events that causes difficulties.

    Recognise the following “thinking traps” or unproductive thoughts that give them the B.L.U.E.S. and help them reframe situations.

    Talk to your teen about taking responsibility for the things that are with his control, and brainstorm ways to achieve a different outcome.

    • B - Blaming others for what had happened
      It is easy to blame others when things do not go our way.

      “My teacher cannot give proper and clear instructions during home-based learning (HBL), and she can’t teach online lessons properly. That is why I cannot keep up with the assignments.’’

      Ask your teen: “Is it all your teacher’s fault that you cannot keep up with HBL assignments?” Talk to your teen about taking responsibility for the things that are within his control, and brainstorm ways to achieve a different outcome.

    • L - Looking at the negatives and discounting the positives
      If your teen is inclined to adopt “the glass is half empty” position, he would screen out the good things that had happened and only focus on the bad.

      “Not being able to meet my friends is driving me crazy.”

      “HBL is useless.”
      Help your child see the good: Ask your teen to point out at least one good thing out of the negatives. Ask: “What skills did you learn through HBL?” “How did you and your friends maintain contact even though you are socially distant?” “What was interesting/helpful communicating through a different platform/channel?"

      Help your teen realise that there is a silver lining even in the darkest clouds.
    • U - Unhelpful prophesying or prediction
      “I will surely do badly for my coming exams no matter how much effort I put in.”

      When your teen tends to predict the worst-case scenarios, ask him for evidence to support his prediction.

      If it is within his control, help him to think of ways he can rise to the challenges or find solutions to his difficulties.

      Help your teen realise that one’s feelings do not always accurately reflect reality.

    • E - Emotional reasoning
      It is not uncommon for youths to assess situations based on their feelings instead of what is truly happening.

      When they feel powerless and trapped because they are missing out on their social activities, they may begin to think that life is like a prison, and that they are powerless to do anything.

      Help your teen realise that one’s feelings do not always accurately reflect reality. While it is true that people’s movement and activities are curtailed, it does not mean everyone is feeling trapped. There are people who are taking the tightened restrictions in good stride.

      Having a list of strict rules about how your teen or others should feel or behave can trigger anger, anxiety, or guilt when these expectations are not met.

    • S – ‘Should/must’ statements
      “I must do well in my upcoming exams, otherwise I am a terrible student”

      “I should not feel anxious about catching the virus.”

      “Everyone must stay in their own workspace when studying.”


      Having a list of strict rules about how your teen or others should feel or behave can trigger anger, anxiety, or guilt when these expectations are not met.

      Help your teen recognise the need for flexibility when adhering to rules and learn to manage expectations, as unrealistic expectations that go unmet may trigger intense and negative emotions.
  2. Maintain a daily routine and structure
    Maintaining a daily routine especially when home-based learning and working from home is the default arrangement, provides a sense of security and stability for the family, not just your teen.

    Involve your teen when creating these routines. Your teen is more likely to follow the schedule if they have ownership of it.

    Convey to them the benefits of structures and routines and that these can be reviewed when circumstances or situations change.

  3. Have open and honest conversations about the pandemic
    With easy access to information on the internet, your teen may be bombarded with information about the ongoing pandemic situation.

    There is a malady of misinformation and “fake news” so make time to have candid conversations and to tune in to their concerns. Involve them by researching together about any questions they may have.

  4. Reach out with empathy and understanding
    Even if your teen does not exhibit any symptoms that are disconcerting or he or she seems to be coping well with the uncertainty and changes, it is good to check in regularly.

    Showing your care and love simply by asking “How are you doing?” and extending a listening ear when your teenager wants to talk goes a long way to boost his/her wellbeing.

    If your teen is feeling anxious and worried, try to understand the contributing factors for his stress or anxiety. Ask questions such as:
    • What are the thoughts dominating their mind?
    • Is something specific causing them to worry? Or is it things in general?
    • How is their anxiety affecting them physically and emotionally?
    Do not dismiss his concerns even if you think they are inconsequential.

    Do validate his/her feelings.

    Exhibiting mental strength does not mean you tough it out with a stiff upper lip. It is about being self-aware, seeking help when required, and acting according to your values.

  5. Be a role model of someone who is mentally strong
    You are your teen’s role model, whether you like it or not. So, lead from the front and be a mentally strong parent in such uncertain times.

    Exhibiting mental strength does not mean you tough it out with a stiff upper lip. It is about being self-aware, seeking help when required, and acting according to your values; these traits enable you to rise above adversity and navigate transitions with finesse.

  6. Invest in your own mental health
    Parenting teenagers can be challenging at the best of times; but doing so in a pandemic can make it even more stressful.

    Parental self-care is critical. Attending to your own needs is not selfish or self-indulging. By prioritising your own mental welling, you will be in a better position to support your teen.

    Suggestions for self-care:
    • Recharge by scheduling me-time. A 10 to 20-minute walk around the neighbourhood or reading a book can boost your sense of wellbeing.
    • Eat healthily
    • Seek support from friends, family, or close associates. Caring human connections are lifelines in trying times.
    That said, if you are feeling overwhelmed by competing demands and responsibilities, consider tapping counselling help.

Parenting teens in a pandemic that seems to have no near end in sight can be stressful. But as the saying goes, “When you feel you are at the end of the rope, tie a knot and hang on.”

As you invest in your own mental health, seek support from loved ones and friends and adopt strategies to support your teen. With your presence, your teen will rise above the circumstances and stay strong. If you know a friend who might need an encouragement in their journey, share these tips with them via our Facebook or Instagram posts.

© 2021 Focus on the Family Singapore. All rights reserved.

 

Swee Fen is an ordinary woman who desires to inspire others to make an extra-ordinary impact through her family life and life skills workshops, counselling training sessions and writing.

Has your child mentioned friends being stressed by school or bullied online? Do you know if your child or their friends have entertained thoughts of suicide?

With the Raising Future-Ready Kids: Mental & Emotional Resilience and Suicide Prevention & Mental Health webinars, we give you handles to build on foundations of open communication and supportive relationships to protect your child’s mental health and emotional well-being. Discover how you can raise mentally strong teens and create a safe space for your child at home at these webinars.

Share this article with someone you care for today, and you might encourage them in their journey. Share instantly on WhatsApp Mobile or on Telegram.

 

 

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