*This post is in partnership with Responsibility.org. I am proud to be a #TeamResponsibilty ambassador and share these messages with you. As always, all thoughts and opinions are 100% my own.
Many teens have been schooling virtually now for almost a full year. This disruption in their daily routine has not only affected their academic potential but for many, it has also severed their social relationships. And, this social isolation is to blame for the rise in depression, anxiety, and the feeling of learned helplessness amongst teens and pre-teens.
I have definitely seen this play out in my own house which is why I was excited to have the opportunity, thanks to Responsibility.org, to listen to former teacher turned author Jessica Lahey speak on ways parents can assist their teens. Below are some of my own personal takeaways.
What is learned helplessness?
Learned helplessness is basically the feeling that nothing that you do will impact or change anything. So, instead of engaging teens (and adults) are tuning out.
You may also hear the term self-efficacy if you research learned helplessness, this term refers to one’s “confidence in the ability to exert control over one’s own motivation, behavior, and social environment.”
Self-efficacy is also a risk factor for academic failure and substance abuse which is why Jessica encouraged us, parents, to get involved in getting our kids re-engaged.
Ways Parents Can Help Their Kids Get Engaged
Inoculation messaging basically means role-playing specific scenarios with your teens to help them rehearse their answers.
Role-playing these situations can help teens, like my own, that may have stricter rules about social distancing than some of their friends. They can practice turning down invites to events your family doesn’t feel are safe. Or it can help them develop language to inform friends of other activities they can do instead together.
By allowing your teen to consider how they would like to respond can strengthen their resolve and help them feel more in control of the situation.
Autonomy In The Home
Right now the only space your teen really has to call their own, and where they have complete control, is their bedroom. So, Jessica suggested that maybe, just for the time being, relax your rules about clean bedrooms. Instead, let your child feel they have control over that space.
Another suggestion was to have your teens pitch in with chores around the house. Jessica mentioned a study that showed that kids during the depression that helped keep their family running during the hard times by pitching in were protected from mental health issues and depression.
In our family, we’ve created fun ways to decide on chores each week with our “chore challenges” it actually turned chore days into some of the kids’ favorite days and I definitely think it is worth checking out.
Allow Your Kids To See You Make Mistakes
With so many parents working from home these days opportunities arise that allow your children to see you make mistakes and handle problems at work. Try including them in your quest for a solution and be upfront and honest with them about mistakes you made and get their take on it.
This helps teens see first-hand how you rebound from places and it helps refocus the importance of process over outcome. This is something Jessica Lahey really drove home. The idea that now more than ever parents need to focus on the process over the product.
As in we should celebrate the milestones along the way not just the final grade. You can do this by praising your kids both when they do well and when you see growth, no matter how small.
She also stressed the importance of social-emotional learning over academics right now. This is something I personally am working on.
In What Ways Are You Supporting Your Teen Right Now?
Cultivating a lifetime of conversations with your kids and teens, including discussing alcohol consumption, is one of Responsibility.org’s main goals.
You can find excellent conversation starters and ideas on how to approach tough topics at all ages (kids-college students) too.
Talking with your kids about alcohol early and often really is the best way to help prevent underage and irresponsible drinking as your children grow and become more easily influenced by outside sources.