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Sharp Health News

Teen love in the time of coronavirus

May 11, 2020

Teen love in the time of coronavirus
Navigating the sometimes rocky waters of teen dating as a parent is challenging enough. There are discussions about consent, curfews, values, safety and more. Occasionally, there is drama and heartbreak. Add in a pandemic and the need for social distancing and things can become very tricky.

Goldie Wright, a licensed marriage and family therapist at Sharp Mesa Vista Hospital, says that it’s important for parents to recognize that just as they might be struggling with their own relationships and responsibilities right now, so too are teens as they adjust to a whole new lifestyle featuring loss of freedoms, online education, physical separation from friends, and new family dynamics. Being forced to be away from their romantic partners makes it even more difficult.

“Parents might want to start sharing how this is impacting their own relationships outside of the home,” Wright says. “If the parents are honest about their struggle with social distancing, but also go over the benefits and importance of following the guidelines during the COVID-19 pandemic, it will help teens understand.”

Important guidelines to remember
According to Wright, it is important to first help your teen understand what constitutes a healthy relationship and make sure they know that these principles apply at all times — both during and after the pandemic.

A healthy relationship includes the following:
  • Trust between two people
  • Accountability for behaviors and mistakes
  • Safety to be themselves and express their emotions
  • Honest communication where each can stick to their values
  • Support and encouragement of one another
  • Boundaries of what each are comfortable with
  • Respect for the other’s beliefs, choices and requests
While staying connected with friends and romantic partners during this time is crucial, Wright emphasizes that this is not the time to let down your guard when ensuring the safety of your teen. Parents still have to set and enforce family rules, especially when it comes to following stay-at-home orders as well as social media and communication safety, even if other parents aren’t doing the same.

“It is important to remember that, as parents, you are not there to be best friends with your child,” Wright says. “Your job is to protect them and make sure they are safe, which during these times, includes social distancing.”

Teen love tips for unprecedented times
If your teen agrees, Wright recommends reaching out by phone, text or email to the parents of your teen’s partner to discuss social distancing and its importance. Try to come to an understanding that both families will abide by the guidelines.

Wright offers five additional tips to support your teen and ensure their safety while also doing your family’s part to slow the spread of COVID-19:

  1. Give teens space to have private video or phone calls. However, set guidelines around what time they are making these calls, the length of the calls and what behaviors they are engaging in.

  2. Make sure they are engaging in healthy communication and not sexting — sending, receiving or forwarding sexually explicit messages or images by phone or computer — or using substances during the call.

  3. Discuss ways they can stay connected and have fun beyond just talking: handwrite and send letters and cards to each other; share old photos or play a trivia game or conversation game with a series of get-to-know-you questions during a video call; have a movie “watch party” and discuss it as you watch; or play multiplayer video or online games together.

  4. Talk to your teen about appropriate ways they can engage in social media. Go through and help delete unhealthy accounts and encourage them to start following healthy and positive people.

  5. Have an open mind and be there to support your teen — this is how they trust that they can come to you — for both the comfortable and uncomfortable stuff. Listen, validate their feelings, and reassure them that things will improve and they will be together in person again.
“Teens are going through a tough time right now, and we cannot protect them from everything,” Wright says. “Give your teen privacy, but make sure they are safe and comfortable with every conversation or video conference they have. Let them know that if demands or threats are being made that make them feel scared, concerned or disrespected, the calls should end and you are there to help them get through it.”

Talk to your doctor if you or your child are experiencing excessive sadness, anxiety or worry for an extended period. Learn more about mental health services at Sharp Mesa Vista Hospital and read important COVID-19 information from Sharp. As part of our efforts to keep you safe, we are offering teletherapy and virtual care programs that provide continued access to care. Admissions continue to be in person, so that we can assess patients for their individual care needs.

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