In the words of British Columbia's provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, now is the time to be calm, to be kind, and to be safe.
While initially spoken with regards to the COVID-19 pandemic, these words hold double meaning when it comes to supporting teens' well-being. This isn't an ordinary summer for young people, but there is much we can do as parents and educators to help them thrive. Taking Dr. Henry's words of wisdom to heart, Heart-Mind Online has created the following list of evidence-informed practices to nurture teens' resilience during these uncertain times.
- Breathe, hum, focus: Try these three simple, science-based practices with teens for instant calm.
- Engage the senses: Watch a soothing sensory video together or make your own DIY psychadelic spiral with milk, dish soap, and food colouring to cultivate a sense of calm and wonder.
- Turn anxiety into excitement: Help teens reframe nervous feelings as positive energy–such as by thinking or saying "I am excited!"–to boost performance under stress.
Lead with Kindness
- Practice Quiet Kindness: Encourage teens to do small, kind things for others, often, without the expectation of recognition or reward (and lead by example!).
- Focus on future happiness: Talk with teens about what they look forward to doing  alone, together, and with family or friends once the COVID-19 pandemic is over, and identify concrete ways you can support their vision in the here-and-now.
- Get trauma-informed: Relate to teens in a trauma-informed way - it's an ultimate act of kindness as a parent or educator, as it can support them to grieve, heal, and thrive in their own time.
Create Emotional Safety
- Make it rain: Create intentionally imperfect moody raindrops art with teens to explore their many moods. Display their artwork as a reminder that difficult feelings always pass–just like the rain.
- Embrace change: Read "Tips for when 'normal' doesnt feel normal anymore," together and support teens to acknowledge their feelings, set realistic expectations for themselves, and create healthy boundaries.
- Learn the A-Z's of coping: Watch this catchy animated video together to explore 26 coping strategies for teens and discuss which ones they might try in the future. Be sure to provide the number for a youth help line in your area, as the one listed in the video is for the UK.
Select images from freepik.com
This science-based trick, called "anxious reappraisal" has been widely found to improve performance under stressful conditions. Since anxiety and excitement share similar body sensations, it works by tricking our brains into reinterpreting our fear of something bad happening (anxiety) as anticipation of something good (excitement).
See a video clip of anxious reappraisal in action here.
Talking about the future in this way supports teens to grieve what they are currently missing and helps them cultivate a sense of hope and optimism for what's in store once the pandemic ends. If possible, take tangible steps to plan for their post-pandemic aspirations: eg. research a dream trip together, help them find opportunities to make and save money, etc.
Kindness is proven to boost well-being, and quiet kindness may be the most powerful form of all.
Quiet acts of kindness rely upon self-regulation and perspective-taking (the ability to put oneself in another's shoes). Examples for teens include: cleaning their room without asking, helping out around the house, refraining from conflict with parents or siblings, etc.
Read more about quiet kindness and its many benefits in this article written by John-Tyler Binfet, a professor in the Faculty of Education at the University of British Columbia.