In this article, you’ll find answers to questions like:
1. How do we find common ground?
2. When do we give each other space?
3. What role can technology play?
When a prolonged crisis, such as a pandemic or hurricane, strips away familiar forms of recreation and socialization, you may find yourself the sole company for your preteen or teenager. Limited access to friends, sports and entertainment means that you and your child must figure out how to pass all the time together.
Our local experts share ways below to navigate this situation, which forces you to slow down and engage.
1. HOW DO WE FIND COMMON GROUND?
It can be challenging to relate to a child with friends, interests and hobbies that are very different from yours. So try to discover what you have in common, says Michelle Rodriguez, interim supervisor for the Positive Parenting Program, known as Triple P, at the Center for Family Services of Palm Beach County.
“I advise my clients to find ways to challenge their teens by asking them what they want to do that they’ve never done before. What are their interests? What do they care about? Challenge them to come up with activities that you can do together. You, as the parent, don’t always have to come up with the ideas,” she says.
Using simple icebreakers, such as playing board games or cards, walking or going for a car or bike ride to their destination of choice, says Nityia Lathan, Triple P supervisor at Community Partners of South Florida. If your teen is involved in organized sports, ask them teach you some basics, like how to field a ground ball, while getting exercise.
2. WHEN DO WE GIVE EACH OTHER SPACE?
Disruption of routines can spark anxieties and frustrations. So Rodriguez recommends empathy, compassion and a cool-off period before discussing what triggered the tension when you’re calmer.
“Remember that teenagers deal with crisis in their own way. Especially for preteens, they may feel like this is the worst that they can’t hang out with their friends,” Rodriguez says. “For parents, it’s a matter of providing structure, giving their child a sense of control and involving them in the process of doing things at home.”
To accomplish that, work out a home schedule for chores, fun activities, class time and homework. Lathan also suggests designating when to spend time together and alone.
3. WHAT ROLE DOES TECHNOLOGY PLAY?
Your child most likely will want to connect with friends through social media, interactive video games and videoconferencing via FaceTime or Zoom. If you want to monitor it, you can designate a common area for this, such as the living room or dining room.
You can use the common area yourself for virtual support via telehealth counseling sessions, Zoom calls with your friends and watching shows to model self-care.
“We teach our child with our behaviors. They watch everything we do, and they start to mimic it. I tell the parents that an emergency is a perfect opportunity for you to talk to your children,” Rodriguez says. “But above all else, give yourself a break. We don’t have to be in crisis mode all day long. Ask your teenager, ‘What is a good thing that has come out of this emergency?’ Help them remember that it has not been all bad.”