Supporting teens through uncertain times

Central Illinois Newsday

PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — The COVID-19 pandemic presents unique difficulties for different ages. For adults, a loss of job or an income change can be a hot button topic. For children, they may not be able to attend their usual preschool activities. For teens, it could be cancelled dances, sports games, and the like.

Goodwill Industries of Central Illinois‘ Program Manager Lyndsie Gravemier said Monday, it’s important for adults to show support and understanding to a teen’s frustrations.

Gravemier’s tips for having tough conversations with teens:

Share a bit: Open the conversation with a brief share about yourself like, “That news story last night stressed me out” or “All these Zoom meetings at work can be exhausting” This shows youth it’s ok to open up about struggles. Just turn the focus to them quickly to avoid making the entire conversation about yourself.

Ask open-ended questions: Follow your quick share with a check-in. Avoid yes/no questions like “You doin’ ok?” as they don’t invite much of a response. Instead, try “What was something stressful for you this week?” or my personal favorite, “If you could change one thing about this year, what would it be?”

Acknowledge their feelings: If you’ve lost a job or a loved one recently, hearing your teen moan about missing a party or sport practice can seem trivial. But American Psychological Association encourages everyone to “name and claim” their grief – even over seemingly small losses – instead of pushing those feelings aside because “it could be worse”. Once you acknowledge the feeling, it’s easier to work through it.

Repeat: Maybe your first time starting the conversation doesn’t have great results. Don’t be afraid to try again. It may take a couple of times before your teen feels comfortable opening up.

Once a conversation wraps up, Gravemier said it’s best for adults to empower their teens. Search for virtual ways for interaction, like volunteering, or a youth support group.

For help: Call Lyndsie at (309) 369-2335 or lgravemier@goodwillpeo.org for referrals to youth programs and opportunities in our community.

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