The topic of teens and peer pressure is not a new phenomenon. Typically, the discussion focuses on sex, drugs, and alcohol. The latest concern now, though, is the issue of observing social distancing. As soon as ‘Stay at Home’ rules were eased, parents began expressing concerns about what type of protocol their teens are observing when getting together with friends.
Your children might have every intention to follow the guidelines. Still, when they get to a gathering with friends, they see that many are not taking safety practices seriously, putting teens in a very tough situation.
Do they say something and risk coming off as the ‘enforcer’? Do they stay and worry about their and others’ safety? Do they leave and risk being even more isolated from their friends?
Interestingly, this is not that different from the discussion you probably have had with your teens about going to parties where alcohol or drugs are present, creating an opportunity to reinforce your family’s values and help them recognize that not everyone shares them. Acknowledge that this is tough, but that it is important to do what is right, not only for themselves but also to understand the severe impact it can have on others. Similar to the situation when your child is at a party where alcohol or drugs are present, have a back-up plan. Let your teens know that they can call you at any time if they want to leave. It can be helpful to have a code word that your teens can text you to let you know they want to come home.
Finally, ‘link independence with safety.’ Dr. Macchia, a clinical psychologist at the Child Mind Institute, stated: “Parents want to be able to trust their teens, and teens want to get some of their freedom back.” When they do go out, she recommends tying independence to compliance with safety measures. “The more willing they are to take safety precautions seriously like distancing, wearing a mask, or socializing only outdoors, the more freedom they’ll be able to have.” Work together to brainstorm ways they can safely hang out with friends. For example:
- Measure 6 feet of distance and practice staying that far apart. (“It’s farther than you think!” says Dr. Giller.)
- Make a list of outdoor places where your teen could safely meet with friends, like a nearby park (if it’s not too crowded), or even the back yard for a socially distant picnic.
- Make or buy cool-looking masks your teen is more likely to wear. You could even suggest they get matching ones for their friends.
*list from Child Mind Institute
“It’s important to recognize and acknowledge the difficulties that your teen faces. Listen to your child without lecturing. Encourage them to come to you with their concerns, anger, and fears. Remember to take advantage of this time together and use it to strengthen and grow your relationship.”
Contact Susie Hurst, M.A. Adolescent Specialist, CHAI Program Susieh@jfskc.org or 913.327.8259