She stays in her room all day. You think you hear signs of life occasionally from behind the locked bedroom door, but there is rarely a visible sign of existence. Until you see her emerge and you hear it…that really loud sigh followed by the eye roll and the only words you hear leave her mouth these days….” Ugh, I’m SO BORED! When is this going to be over?”
For a teen girl, Shelter in Place, or Stay at home order as they are calling it NC, seems like a death sentence. Think back to when you were a teen. Your entire existence revolved around your friends and the activities you did with them. With very little notice, school and all activities were canceled, online learning was implemented, she was told she is no longer allowed to be around her friends, and she is being forced to be at home with those she wants to be around the least. (Sorry moms; you know she prefers hanging out with her friends over you)
Let’s be honest, most of us don’t love being confined to our homes either, but that is our reality right now. So how do we make the best of it; especially if we have a teen girl in the house whose world as she knows it has ended? How do you lead them through this time well and still hope to have a decent relationship with them when this is over?
I have some suggestions. Every teenage girl is different so this may not be what is best for everyone, but I think this will help you until the worst is over, and maybe long after that.
Remind her you love her, and you are in this together. None of us has done this before! It’s new to us all. Admit you don’t have all the answers, but that you are making decisions the best you know how to keep your family safe and healthy. Empathize with what she’s going through and resist the urge to reply to her eye roll with “This is not the end of the world! You need to just get over it!” In her eyes, it’s the end of the HER world and it’s painfully hard. Instead, offer words of empathy and unity. “I know this is really hard for you. It’s hard for all of us, but we’re on the same team. Let’s figure out a way to make the best of this, ok? We can’t control what’s happening, but we can control how we treat and support each other through this.” If you remind her you aren’t the enemy, the sweet little girl inside of her (she’s still in there, I promise) is more likely to come out and play nice.
If she comes to you in a panic, just listen. Don’t try to fix it. Being “trapped” in the house and quarantined from friends is likely to send the emotions raging! Everything may seem like a crisis! Most of the time, your daughter doesn’t want you to fix the crisis she’s in. She just wants you to listen to her and empathize. If she comes to you with an issue that seems to have her frazzled, listen to what she’s dealing with (really listen, don’t pretend you are listening while you are making your grocery list), respond with “I’m so sorry. I know this is hard!” and stop there. Resist the urge to tell her how she can solve her problem. She doesn’t want that. If you think it’s important to give your input, a great way to approach it is to say, “Would you like my input or advice on that?” (then wait for her to respond) If she says yes, then give it, but don’t be attached to the outcome of if she follows your advice or not. (that’s the hard part) I’ve found if she’s given you permission to share your advice, she is usually open to listening to it. If not, it’s perceived as you trying to boss her around and it falls on deaf ears.
Use this time to get to know her as a person, not to have her work on every project in the house you’ve wanted attended to for the past decade. Ask her if there is something you can do together each day that will give you the opportunity to get to know the young woman she is becoming. Chances are, she no longer sees herself as a little girl, but she thinks you do. Talk to her. Let her share her feelings without judgment and be sure to acknowledge how much you see her maturing and how proud you are of the young woman she is. Treat her like someone who is mature, and she will rise to the occasion. A daily walk around the neighborhood or a long drive to get out of the house are perfect opportunities to build an amazing relationship with your daughter. Use this time to teach her some life skills that she’ll need as she gets older. Teach her how to cook, wash clothes or make a budget. Make it fun! Share with her your memories of your parents teaching you these things. Make memories with her that she can one day share with her kids.
Laugh! Like really good belly laughs! We all need that right now. Do something silly together, watch a funny movie, play a fun game, have a dance party in the middle of the living room. During this time, things she would normally think are lame, she is probably open to trying. Just don’t video it and put it on Instagram without her permission.
Encourage her to talk about how she’s dealing with all that’s going on with someone she trusts; even if it’s not you. I’ve talked to several teen girls who are extremely scared that one of her parents is still going into an office to work. When I ask, “Have you told them how you feel?” The answer is almost always “no.” It is not healthy for girls (or boys for that matter) to experience all these emotions and bottle them up inside. Remind her how important it is to talk about her feelings with someone. Let her know that you would love that person to be you, but you are totally ok if she chooses someone else. Just be sure she’s talking about it with someone.
Have a nightly one-word check-in. I recommend you set aside a time each night to provide a space for each member of your family to share one word explaining how they are feeling. If you end up having a long family conversation about it, great. But don’t expect that. Just provide a safe place for each person to reflect on their emotions that day and be able to say that out loud. It’s powerful and therapeutic.
Extend extra grace and patience during this time. Most of your family is likely under one roof all day. Jobs and school still need to happen. Perhaps someone has lost their job and that has added a new level of stress to your family unit. Emotions are running high. The house may be a mess. Things won’t get done the way you want them done all the time. IT’S OK! Be intentional about offering a little more grace to everyone in your home. Be extra patient with one another. Some families are losing people very close to them. The least we can do is love and care well for the ones that are still with us.
Right now, the timing for the end of this is unknown, but this season of lockdown WILL end! Schools will eventually be in session again. Sports & activities will resume. The social life she feels is completely destroyed will reignite and we’ll resume a more normal routine.
I don’t believe any of us will ever be the same though. I don’t know that it’s possible for us to come out the other side of this exactly the way we were before we were thrust into this new way of life. I think we’ll either come out the other side angry, bitter, less vibrant versions of ourselves with strained relationships and a chip on our shoulder OR we’ll come out the other side more healthy, more compassionate, more appreciative of those around us and with stronger relationships with our family than we thought was possible. The choice is ours and the decisions we make in the middle of this will largely determine that outcome. Join me in the commitment for the later and let’s show this generation of teenagers how we handle adversity so they can model it for future generations!
Jenny Stoner is the founder of Shine Teens; a coaching & mentoring program for teen girls. You can learn more about Jenny and how she is inspiring young women to live lives of impact at www.shine-teens.com. Have a question for her? Email here HERE