There is no doubt that the initial adjustment to life under quarantine and social distancing is ever so slowly becoming normative for many of us. Although certainly not easy, many teens in particular have shown incredible strength and resiliency as they navigate online school and an unknown path toward one day regaining normalcy—that is, most likely, a new “normal.”
The holidays naturally bring up many emotions for us all. While cabin fever is very real and the holidays can exacerbate stressors and bring up issues of even more “together time,” teens and their parents will need to be prepared to handle challenging family dynamics this holiday season. Two character strengths in particular that can help the entire family include kindness and bravery.
Kindness is defined by generosity, a spirit of nurturing, caring, compassion, and striving toward altruism. Naturally, the holidays are a time of giving. In these uncertain times, it can be normal to turn inward and focus on our own needs and desires. Thinking selflessly, it can help families to brainstorm new traditions given that old ones may be harder to implement with social distancing and establishments that may no longer be open or easily accessible. Challenge the family to think about giving back.
Some churches are encouraging families to pack meals for those in need from home — simply purchase and assemble a few snacks and sandwiches each week and drop them off curbside at a parish. Others can safely continue volunteering to sell Christmas trees with proceeds going to charities. Purchasing and shipping gifts to adopted families can also occur easily with online shopping and curbside drop-offs. While it can be easy to focus on ourselves and our own losses of tradition or even independence this holiday season, shifting our energy into how we can help others can help us all thrive.
Meanwhile, bravery is defined as showing valor and can be seen not only physically, but emotionally and mentally as well. Teens will absolutely need to don mental armor to get through the winter doldrums that will impact us all as the weather continues to prohibit outdoor gatherings across much of the country. It will also be imperative that they share their vulnerabilities in a way that takes courage. Reaching out for help, whether seeking a therapist, school counselor, or spiritual guide will take incredible bravery.
Encouraging teens to open up by creating a safe and non-judgmental space can help relieve the burdens they may feel that they are carrying alone. Much like their parents, teens are facing Zoom fatigue, uncertainty about college prospects, graduation, and even smaller traditions such as homecoming and prom. The micro highlights of life in high school have been taken away for many of them, and encouraging them to share their struggles and seek support can be critical. The holidays can bring up strong emotions for them as well. Braving the uncertainty can be scary but continuing to have open conversations with them can help buffer their mental health and keep them positive throughout these times.