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
“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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.