I am sure that many of you are asking yourselves, how is it possible that I spend all day at home and barely see my children? Well, adolescence is a difficult time period, a period of much turbulence and change that eventually leads to the formation of a self-identity. During this stage, social relationships and personal space become an essential priority as they are a vehicle to separate themselves from their parents and start creating their own identity. And during confinement, this will continue its course.
It is not easy for parents to separate themselves from their children, it is painful to grasp that they no longer need us, no longer want to have a movie night, nor listen to us, nor consider us their heroes, nor want to look like us but instead want to dye their hair green. They need to explore their tastes, solve their own problems, have their own way of thinking, and this is really what will lead them into becoming confident adults. We only have to support their exploration, encourage them to do it and be there for what they need, when they ask for it. They need us to validate their emotions and their projects without judgment, to be by their side and cheer them on, all the while staying around for when they need to return. Return meaning they can come back battered and wary, and that we will be there only to welcome, calm and comfort, without reproach.
Similarly, it is not easy for teens to separate themselves from their parents; they feel insecure and need constant reassurance from their peers. Sometimes they feel left out and other times lonely and lost in the face of this immense task consisting of finding out who they truly are. Some may be angrier than others. This is because anger is a more manageable emotion than loneliness, shame or helplessness. Anger is also a way of detaching themselves and denying that they are still dependent. They need their peers to express their same discomfort and feel understood by those who are living and feeling what they are. They also need their peers to observe and follow how they make that necessary separation as well as to simply identify with a group. Therefore, this period of confinement further complicates this already difficult task.
So, it is normal that they may be more isolated, angry or apathetic; they are only frustrated as they try to continue their “differentiation”. They overuse their social networks even more because it is their only remaining form of connection to the outside world. On the other hand, they could be scared and distressed, especially if their family has been affected by the virus. We, as their model adults, have to help them express and contain those emotions, give them security despite being scared ourselves.
It would be good to understand all this so as to not be excessively strict with school demands or with household rules. It could be a good time to help develop their other half, the emotional half, without which, they would not be a complete person.
Get in touch with our emotions by sharing family stories during mealtimes, by getting closer to our family, having dinner with them on Skype, understanding where they come from. It could be a good time to share household chores, to practice teamwork and discuss crucial values such as solidarity, compassion, persistence, tolerance, resilience and above all, gratitude.
Lots of encouragement and a big hug to all the brave parents taking charge.
(My thanks to Raquel and many other psychologists who inspire and give sense to my work)
Ana Clara Rodrigo Torres