So many teens are suffering in school right now, they couldn’t wait to get back to see their friends but now they are back in school so much has changed, and it’s harder than most of them realise.
Outside of school a lot of their time is spent online, they have to navigate a social world that is very black and white and full of other teens who may also be struggling. Forming and maintaining friendships is much more complicated than it has ever been. The different personality types are all there online from the bold and confident to the shy and reserved, they are each finding their place or not as the case may be.
Imagine it, in a group chat with your peers and you are just that bit slower to think of things to say, perhaps someone else is always in first, perhaps you don’t come across as well on the page as you do in real life. Maybe you’re trying to figure out what someone meant in the last message, maybe you are wondering if they were being shady etc., maybe you spend hours trying to figure out if you have you done something wrong. It’s a very complicated world, it’s messy, and it’s an exploded version of physical life which was never that easy for a teen anyway. It’s so easy to understand why your teen might slump and become low. The experience of getting things wrong or being left out can actually feel like physical pain, they may feel isolated and sad. There are ups and downs in this online world and it is far from easy but it is what they have.
So many are feeling insecure right now as the way they learned to make friends is not valid anymore. They are back in school, everyone is masked, the visual communication is different there is more eye action and animated which can be very confusing, people can be misunderstood. The way humans communicate is usually very visual, we read everything, we read eyes, we read facial expressions and we read mouths, so much is missing and our teens are getting tired. The excitement of getting back to school has faded and it’s hard. Falling outs are common, bad moods are everywhere and it’s much harder to find their place.
Now more than ever we need to brush up on our communication and level up on empathy. We all need to be heard, often times the last thing we need is advice or to be directed and told what to do and right now our teens are being told what to do a lot more than usual. I take as many opportunities to chat to my own teens, and am finding coaching questions work very well rather than giving instructions or opinions, all is going as well as can be expected in covid times. We have a 2nd year, a TY and a leaving cert.
So what can we do, we can ask how they are getting on, ask them is there anything that would make things easier, ask them what are they tolerating, (avoid giving advice), just listen and empathise, make it all about them, avoid telling them what to say or do, ask them what they would like to happen, ask them what would be best thing to come out of whatever situation. If you can get them to start thinking of solutions themselves rather than trying to save them, believe it or not your teen understands their new world very well at this stage, it’s up to us to help them with their thinking and solutions strategies.
Encourage them to come up with ways to improve their mood, one of the best tonics is getting out in nature, a walk in the rain and wind can take us all away for an hour and can be very renewing.
Ask them to remember that no matter what is happening that there are always ways to perk themselves up, they need to find what suits them and keep it going. Remember the last lock down, we were seeing people baking and learning instruments etc., ask is there anything they wished they had done, remember it’s never too late for any of us to get busy with a new skill or hobby.
Parents know when something is wrong, if you are concerned about your teens mental state, please contact your GP and ask for help.