YouthZone column: Parent’s PEACE offering best way to connect during isolation

Tina Olson
For YouthZone
Tina Olson
David McGavock

How is your teenager really doing in the midst of having to stay in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic? We have asked kids to separate from all of their external social connections, the mainstay of their existence, and to spend all of their time at home with their families.

Is this possible and does it have realistic expectation? After all, this is the time that young people are trying to figure out who they are and who they want to be.

YouthZone helps youth on their journey of self-discovery at their own pace and in their own time. With help from counselors and advocates, they have a safe place to explore their actions, feelings and behavior. With the current isolation due to restrictions in place for COVID-19, teens who have questions or need help must be able to reach out to those people stuck in their homes with them.

I would like to start a conversation about the emotional intelligence of our younger population. It is not about understanding them from an intellectual or logical level. It’s not necessarily to quote research or best practices or to explain the development of the adolescent brain.

Instead, let’s talk about feelings.

Young people race into the teen years ready to be adults, without thinking this does not happen overnight, on the cusp of a particular birthday, the first day of a certain school year, or when they’ve been handed a new adult responsibility. It takes the whole span of time from middle school through high school to learn what they will need to take into adulthood.

A great deal of this learning is done within relationships that are circles within circles. Family, teachers, first coworkers, bosses, school peers and close friends all overlap. The isolation of social distancing and staying at home has challenged the supporting strength of those circles.

This time together at home can be an opportunity for deeper involvement between parents or guardians and their adolescents. Teenagers will benefit significantly from an adult who can offer them PEACE.

P = Patience. E = Encouragement. A = Active listening. C = Commitment. E = Emotional understanding.

At YouthZone, we are concerned about this global virus creating or magnifying depression, anxiety and fear. One brilliant 13-year-old boy that I worked with for several weeks finally named this emotion “the big sad.”

These young people who now share every minute with family will not use words to ask for guidance. They will not volunteer how they are feeling, and they will not understand when we compare our teenage years to theirs. They will not want to be treated like they are broken.

When a parent is in control of his or her own life, teens will know that the PEACE being offered is authentic and real. Be patient. Be encouraging. Listen to them in a way that says, “I hear you.” Let them know that you are committed to your relationship with them, regardless of their behaviors.

Show up for them and offer them PEACE. Not just once and not just during this pandemic, but in a very consistent way throughout all their teen years. You will stabilize their rocky journey into adulthood, and their understanding will blossom. I promise.

YouthZone continues to offer services while we are under orders to restrict movement outside our homes and maintain our social distance. Please call 970-945-9300 if you feel you need counseling or guidance as a youth or parent during this time.

Tina Olson is YouthZone’s clinical supervisor and senior therapist. She has been employed with YouthZone since 2017 and is a licensed professional counselor specializing in adolescents and families.

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