Whether it’s illness or a global pandemic, sometimes circumstances force our kids to miss out on rites of passage that make the high school experience so sweet. In 2020 and 2021, kids missed dances, performances, events—even graduation. Teens were unhappy and who could blame them?
In these moments teens can feel like they’re under a dark cloud. That can make the reality seem even bleaker than it may actually be. To help them cope with the losses they’re experiencing, suggest cognitive reframing—the act of finding a more positive interpretation of a situation to change the way you look at it. Reframing doesn’t deny the challenge of the moment, it shifts the view, and it’s an opportunity to discover a silver lining.
As teens reframe their view of missing out, they learn the habit of resilience. They will face disappointing, stressful, and sad circumstances in the future, but can develop the habits and skills to move those experiences from a negative frame to a more hopeful one, filled with opportunities and silver linings.
Adolescence is the time when kids start to break away from family and find independence. It’s the season when they’re forming their identity and discovering who they are. They’re trying to set their own boundaries and establish their own values and beliefs apart from those of their parents. University of Texas psychology professor Dr. David Yeager says, “Teens are hard-wired to push back against rules. They value autonomy, the opportunity to make their own decisions. Tell them they can’t do something, they hear, ‘you’re not an adult who can make choices for yourself.’”
Whatever the reason for their missing out, coach teens to understand the reason it’s happening through a conversation about principles vs. rules. Rules externally restrain a kid through authority and discipline, but principles have the potential to internally inspire a kid to do the right thing. Then encourage them to reframe the situation.
Use these four steps to help teens cope with their losses.
- Start with the unvarnished facts
• What’s causing them to miss the important milestone?
• What is the impact on you? Your family? Your friends?
• The widening circle of your world?
- Make it personal
• How should you respond and why?
•. What are your responsibilities right now?
- Acknowledge the sadness, but resist the urge to fix things
Give your teen the time and space to talk through their sad feelings. That doesn’t mean you fix them; just listen without distractions to be in tune with them.
- Get creative
Are there creative ways your teen can celebrate the events they’re missing?