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No single strategy, like deep breathing, will magically make our worries disappear. That said, “having coping strategies in your back pocket is super important,” says Hurley. “It helps us know what to do when our stress levels rise, but it doesn’t fix everything.” It also takes consistent practice to hone these skills so that you can apply them when you feel your temperature rise. With both adults and kids experiencing challenges right now, it’s a powerful time for families to practice being open about emotions and making self-care a family affair.
“Whether it is taking that daily walk or doing an online yoga class or some sort of exercise to get the endorphins going, we have to think about our own coping strategies,” says Hurley. She also strongly recommends meditation apps because mindfulness is a proven way to reduce the acute stress response. “When we use it, it works.”
Check-In Without Interviewing
Teens need adults to keep an eye on them right now, but sometimes how we check-in can inadvertently increase anxiety. “We have to practice checking in with them in non-threatening ways,” says Hurley. That means putting a stop to “constantly interviewing kids about what homework they’ve done, what they’ve sent in and what’s still outstanding.”
Right now, there’s a lot of media chatter about “lost learning and how kids are falling behind,” says Hurley. “And it’s translating to pressure within the home.”
It’s hard to see our children struggle with remote or hybrid schooling, so “we keep interviewing them to try to get information so that we can know how to fix it. We can’t fix this. But what we can do is we can step back and say, ‘Hey, this is hard academically and emotionally. It’s exceptionally difficult to learn math online right now.’ What we need to do more of is just listening and asking, ‘How are you doing? How are you feeling?’”
Hurley said the most common response she’s hearing from kids right now is that they are lonely. They miss their friends, and they miss “a teacher leaning over their desk to point something out on their paper. Teachers have this magical way of connecting with kids in small ways and they can’t get that over Zoom, no matter how hard they try.”
Meet Them Where They Are
Parents often report that their teens are not coming to them for support. But they are, Hurley says.
“They’re just doing it in a way that you don’t like. When they’re venting or sniping at you over little things – there it is! They are trying to hand you their feelings. They’re projecting outward because those feelings are uncomfortable and they don’t know what to do with them.”
Sometimes teens seek to connect over play through video games, cards, basketball, jigsaw puzzles, etc. “Play is how kids connect at all ages,” says Hurley. “It’s a reason teenagers will say, ‘Dad, would you shoot hoops with me?’”
As Harvard psychologist Nancy Hill once noted, “Parenting…