April 9, 2020
Are You Struggling at Home with Your Troubled Teen During COVID-19?
For many, being a parent is challenging in general. Add on top of that having a troubled teenager who struggles with issues that require professional help. Then, factor in COVID-19 and having to stay inside the same house 24/7. If you find yourself in this situation and feel like you’re trapped and without resources, keep reading. We’ll go over several options and resources to help you navigate this time with your teenager.
1. Maintain the Same Pre-Quarantine Boundaries and Rules
Your teen may rebel against your boundaries and rules, but it’s critical that they have some sort of structure—especially right now. While everything about their routine may be changing, they should be able to trust that things like boundaries and rules stay the same. If there were chores assigned or bedtimes set, maintain those expectations. Don’t let your home’s sense of structure go in decline, because it will be a lot harder to put back together later.
Some families may feel the need for extra structure right now. If so, you might want to consider setting temporary additional boundaries and rules. For example, you may assign extra cleaning chores to help combat the coronavirus. You may institute a family game time at the end of the day to help keep everyone entertained and to lessen the impact of feeling socially isolated. Because everyone will most likely be using electronics more, you may want to set time restrictions on shared family devices to help ensure everyone gets to get what they need out of them. Whatever extra boundaries or rules you may set, make it clear that these are temporary until everything goes back to normal.
2. Have Stressed-Down Conversations
These are intentional conversations with the purpose of relieving anxiety. In this type of conversation, parents and teens should sit down together and talk. For ten minutes, let your teen say whatever is on their mind. Don’t interrupt, and don’t bring out the rule book. Simply listen, encourage, and empathize. Use phrases like “I’m sorry you’re going through that. That must be very difficult.” This is their chance to talk, and your opportunity to be their advocate. When the ten minutes are up, you may respond with your thoughts.
Now, we understand that some teens may use this as an opportunity to vent aggressively by yelling, name calling, etc. In no way is this type of conversation meant to open the door to emotional abuse of either party. Before having this type of conversation, gently set the boundaries. Explain that the conversation’s purpose is so that both of you can come to a point of mutual respect. Ask that the conversation’s tone be kept calm and emphasize that you two will have to take a break from the conversation if voices are raised or if there’s any abusive language.
If either party starts to raise their voice, swear, or act out in any way negatively, take a break. Be calm and gentle as you transition from the conversation to the break. You can do this by saying something along the lines of, “I care about you too much to fight with you. Let’s take a break. I love you, and we’ll talk soon.” After both parties are calm and ready to continue, resume the conversation.
Remember, your teen needs to know that you love and care for them. Even though tensions are high right now, they matter to you. Help them understand that they can talk to you without judgement and feel safe doing so.
3. Seek Teletherapy Options
Sometimes we all just need to talk to someone outside of our family about what we’re going through, and your teen is no different. If your teenager was already seeing a therapist, contact him or her to see if they’d be willing to still meet with your teen over a Zoom call. They may even have an online coping skills class your teen can participate in. If your teenager wasn’t already seeing a professional, you may find it worth doing so especially right now. A therapist can help you and your child navigate your in-house relationship as well as address any underlying issues.
Help your teen feel comfortable participating in teletherapy by giving them the same privacy they would get in a real in-office therapy session. Let them take their therapeutic video chat to a separate floor or the backyard (if your internet connection still works outside the home).
4. If Appropriate, Take Legal Action
This next section will not apply to every teen and should only be seen as a last resort. There are teens that struggle to control their aggressive behavior who may resort to hitting, pushing, and punching family members. In such cases, you’ll have to use your best judgement and ultimately decide what is best for the family unit as a whole.
If the situation seems minor and is resolvable, address the violent act with the teen, victim, and possibly a therapist. Discuss the long-term consequences of violence and the need to handle issues maturely. If the situation is more major, repetitive, or involves weapons, you may want to consider involving law enforcement and having your teen placed in a detention center. This may affect their record, but it may be needed in a quarantine situation where domestic issues can escalate.
Turn-About Ranch is Here to Help!
We have worked with hundreds of teens during our 30 plus years of operation. If your teen has a particular issue, we’ve most likely already handled the same or similar issues. Our ranch is located away from civilization and is naturally isolated from risks like COVID-19. Here, your teen will be given the space they need to work out their issues out here in the beautiful Utah wilderness. They’ll have access to onsite therapists and mentors who will help them through their journey. If you find yourself searching for options to help your struggling teenager, please give us a call at 800-842-1165.