From The Heart of Texas Region MHMR
Most teenagers strive for independence, want to be with their peers, and are looking ahead to the future. Given this, how do we care for young people during this time, when they aren’t able to hang out with their friends and whose plans may have been cancelled or postponed by the coronavirus? Below are some strategies that might help to address these unexpected parenting challenges, especially at a time when many adults are struggling to hold it all together.
Make Space for Disappointment and Sadness
Teenagers everywhere are facing losses. Once-in-a-lifetime events, such as, graduations, sporting events, and proms have either been cancelled or drastically modified. Performances and competitions for which teenagers have been preparing for months, if not years, have been cancelled overnight. While schools and teachers struggle to get coursework online, gone are the clubs, teams, and other interactions that many students enjoy.
Though we can’t replace what’s been lost, adults should not undervalue the power of offering empathy to discouraged adolescents. In addition to feelings of anxiety around COVID-19, teenagers may be feeling sad, angry, and frustrated about what has become of their year. Words of understanding or empathy might include, “I hate that you have lost so much so fast and I am sorry this has happened. You’ll get through this, but that doesn’t make it any easier right now.” When it comes to addressing painful feelings with teenagers, offering compassion can help pave their way toward feeling better.
Make Space for Relief and Joy
The same teenagers who may be feeling upset about missing school and their peers, may also express some feelings of relief. As much as they are grieving their losses, they may also be relieved at getting out of some commitments they never wanted to keep, or interactions with classmates, teachers or coaches that may have been negative in the past. We might say, “It’s OK to feel relief now too,” while reassuring teenagers that embracing the upsides of the disruption does not minimize what they’ve lost or their worries about the impact of the virus.
Expect Friction Regarding Their Social Lives
If you’re a parent who is sticking to the social distancing guidelines, your teenager is probably already frustrated with you, as some parents are still allowing their kids to hang out as usual. To address this we might say, “I know that other parents are still having kids over, but we can’t support that choice because it doesn’t fit with what the official safety recommendations are.” From there, we can let our teenagers know that when turning down invites they are free to blame us, and that if local safety guidelines allow, we’re open to their suggestions about how they might get together with friends outdoors, six feet apart.
When adolescents can’t see their peers in person, it seems only fair to loosen the rules on how much time they spend connecting online. But all bets aren’t off. Now, as always, rules are still in order to keep digital technology from undermining essential elements of healthy development. Sleep, productive learning, physical activity and face-to-face interactions (even if only with family members for now) should not be crowded out by life online.
Allow Privacy and Time Alone
Of course, few adolescents will want to spend all of their new at-home time with their parents or guardians. Teenagers who are formally quarantined, under shelter-in-place orders, or simply practicing social distancing will need and deserve privacy and time alone. Make it clear that you welcome your teenagers’ company, but don’t take it personally if they want you nearby but quiet, or if they want to spend time in some other private space in your home.
Think about approaching your teenager with an extra measure of thoughtfulness when making requests. For example, saying, “We’re going to need you to supervise your sister for a couple of hours, but we know that you have plans too. How should we do this?” might be a good place to start.
Treat Teenagers as Problem-Solving Partners
As we struggle to figure out new rules, systems and routines for daily living, let’s remember that adolescents are usually at least as resourceful as adults. Don’t hesitate to ask teenagers’ help. We could say, “We’re all having to invent new ways to arrange our days. Can you show me what you have in mind so that I can get a feel for your regular schedule and make sure you’re covering all your bases?”
The school year is ending, summer is nearly here and there is a lot we still don’t know about how that will unfold for our teenagers, but there are some truths about adolescents that can help us through this difficult time: they welcome empathy, they are resilient and adaptable, and they appreciate — and tend to live up to — high expectations.
WACO, Texas – Bringing educators, mental health providers and others together to learn and take actionable steps to save lives, regarding what is considered “the preventable epidemic” among American youth, is the focus of the 15th Annual Teen Suicide Prevention Symposium.
Education Service Center (ESC) Region 12, Cedar Crest Residential Treatment Center, Providence Ascension Healthcare Network, the Methodist Children’s Home, and Klaras Center for Families will present the symposium from 9 a.m. to 12 noon, Thursday, June 18. The session is $55 and registration is available at https://txr12.escworks.net/ session #171198.
The Symposium, which normally is held at ESC Region 12 in Waco, will be held virtually through Zoom. Participants will have access to the Zoom link upon completion of their registration. The event format, though shorter, will be engaging and offer an online break-out to discuss the content and have breaks with the speakers. Medical and mental health speakers will share research and strategies for helping youth who struggle with suicidal ideation.
According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, an average of one person dies by suicide every 12.8 minutes in the U.S with more than 129 people dying by suicide each day.
Jenipher Janek, ESC Region 12 counseling specialist and regional crisis response team leader, says “Mental health continues to be a huge concern for school personnel. During this time of separation, we still wish to access the best supports and resources for our children. In this year’s 15th Annual Teen Suicide Prevention Symposium, we will hear about suicide safety plans and school responsibilities from Dr. Holly Robles, of Fort Bend ISD and hear from Dr. Fahd Rawra, MD from Alinatelehealth, who will share about mental health and telemedicine.”
In June, The Cove – Heart of Texas, Inc., will move its operations to the first floor of the Methodist Children’s Home (MCH) Family Outreach Center at 524 W. Waco Drive. MCH acquired the building and moved its Waco MCH Family Outreach team to the second floor of the facility in January 2019 while considering options for the more than 5,000-square-foot first level.
With a common focus to equip and empower youth, sharing a building with The Cove, “whose commitment aligns so closely with that of MCH was a natural decision,” said Trey Oakley, MCH president/CEO. “This collaboration of two strong and focused organizations will strengthen both of our nonprofits and the Waco community at large.”
For The Cove, a teen-nurturing center in its fourth year of operation, leasing this space means growing in a variety of ways. With nearly double the square footage of The Cove’s current facility on Washington Avenue, the new location will give the organization the capacity to serve more youth experiencing homelessness, prepare meals in a commercial kitchen, and further develop community partnerships, according to The Cove’s executive director Kelly Atkinson. “This beautiful facility is a dream come true for us – not only because it offers the extra room needed to grow, but also because of the growing collaboration it represents,” Atkinson said. “We are thrilled to share space with such a leader in our community’s work to serve vulnerable youth. Methodist Children’s Home has been an anchor in our community for 130 years, and without their generosity and leadership, this new chapter for The Cove would not be possible.” Collaborating with The Cove fulfills a strategic goal for MCH.
“When we opened the MCH Family Outreach Center in Waco in 2019, a goal in our previous strategic plan was to build a facility to support and broaden our programs and open new opportunities for collaboration,” Oakley said. “This space has allowed MCH Family Outreach to increase its impact on families through trainings, meetings, community events and other gatherings in a unique and transformative way. “At the same time, the additional space available on the first floor of the building allowed us to dream and look for strategic opportunities for how MCH could better serve the Waco community and surrounding areas,” he said.
MCH and The Cove have worked together in the past when former Cove students were able to participate in MCH’s independent living program. The Cove opened in October 2016 with a focus on Waco Independent School District high school students who were identified as lacking Fixed, Adequate and Regular housing.
The Cove prepares young people for self-sustainability guided by four principles: Care, Opportunity, Value, and Empowerment. Students can visit The Cove to gain access to basic needs, case management, mentors, and academic support.
Faced with the reality that only 1 in 4 Texas youth without a stable place to call home will graduate from high school, The Cove places a key focus on scholastic support for students. Such support requires space for technology – something that has been a challenge for The Cove in its previous setup. “The potential for an extensive technology hub is one of the things I’m most excited about for Cove Scholars in this new location,” Atkinson said. “Students will have access to the equipment they need to catch up on classes, complete homework, receive tutoring, and fill out college and job applications. Now more than ever, we must create alternative learning environments for high-school-aged youth who need to become career-ready and self-sufficient.” Her hope is that The Cove’s new home will provide just such an environment.
ABOUT THE COVE – HEART OF TEXAS, INC.: Founded in 2016, The Cove – Heart of Texas, Inc. aims to increase self-sustainability among high school-aged youth who lack Fixed, Adequate, and Regular (FAR) housing. Through early identification, homelessness prevention, and nurturing social supports, The Cove serves as a low-barrier entry point to care where young people can access the resources they need to thrive in the areas of housing, employment, physical wellness, education, and relationships. To learn more, visit thecovewaco.org.
ABOUT METHODIST CHILDREN’S HOME: Established in 1890 in Waco, Texas, Methodist Children’s Home (MCH) is a nationally accredited nonprofit childcare ministry serving more than 5,000 individuals annually through residential programs for children ages 11-18 on the Waco campus and MCH Boys Ranch, transition living programs for alumni ages 18-26, and foster care and in-home services through 13 MCH Family Outreach offices in Texas and New Mexico. MCH programs are evidence-based, trauma-informed and mission-focused. MCH offers opportunities to develop healthy relationships, grow spiritually and experience educational success up to and after graduation with a generous tuition assistance program for MCH alumni. To learn more, visit MCH.org.