Actively Listening to your Adolescent

Quality communication is a critical part of successful parenting, and active listening is an important component of positive and productive communication with your adolescent. Active listening is making a conscious effort to hear the words your adolescent is saying and to understand the entire message he or she is conveying.

There are four key steps to being a successful active listener.

Be present and limit distractions.

Showing your adolescent that he or she has your undivided attention helps your child understand that how they feel and what they are saying is important to you. Be sure to concentrate on what is being said. By including nonverbal gestures that show you’re listening, like nodding or smiling, your adolescent may feel more willing to share with you and be open with you (Vitalaki, & Katsarou, 2021).

Do not interrupt.

While your adolescent is speaking, concentrate on his or her words and do not think about your response. If you are formulating your reply, your attention will be distracted, and you may miss key points. Wait until your adolescent has finished speaking, or better yet, ask him or her if he or she is finished speaking before you respond.

Withhold judgment.

When listening to your adolescent, do not make judgments on the words or actions; make a point to hear the whole story. It is important for your child to feel that his or her thoughts and feelings are valid and deserve consideration.

Paraphrase what was said.

When talking with your adolescent, repeat what he or she said by using statements like, “I hear you saying…” and “It sounds like you feel…” followed by “Does that sound right?” Paraphrasing shows your adolescent that you understand or don’t understand what he or she said, which will allow your child to clarify points for you.

Actively listening to your adolescent can help create a safe and trusting communication environment where your child feels heard and understood. As a result of the trust that is built, you may be better able to prevent or diffuse conflict and understand your child’s needs, so you can find solutions together.

References

Vitalaki, E., & Katsarou, E. (2021). Active listening: A model for teachers and parents to actively listen and act upon children’s concerns in terms of their perceptions of quality of life. In F.N. Valanidou, L. Neophytou, M. Anatasou & M. Koutselini (Eds.), Children’s life quality: Participation, recreation, and play (pp. 74-104). University of Cyprus; Center for Social Innovation.

Supporting the Emotional and Behavioral Health of Children During the COVID-19 Pandemic

As our nation continues to endure the COVID-19 pandemic, many families may be wondering about the impact the pandemic has had on the emotional and behavioral health of their child(ren). In addition to social distancing recommendations and requirements that do not allow for close contact with a variety of individuals (e.g., peers, teammates, extended family members), many children have been, and still are, learning remotely, which also separates them from contact with important community figures (e.g., teachers, school counselors). 

The American Academy of Pediatrics recently released a report that provides guidance to pediatricians, professionals, families, and agencies regarding how to support the emotional and behavioral health of children and families during the COVID-19 public health crisis. The report includes information for families to consider as they support a child who may exhibit signs and symptoms associated with stress.

Some signs and symptoms of stress may include the following (American Academy of Pediatrics, 2021):

Infants and young children – disruptions in sleep, toileting, and feeding behaviors; difficulty with separation; and skills regression.

Older children and adolescents – internalizing symptoms such as withdrawal, fearfulness, and anxiety; externalizing behaviors such as irritability, oppositionality, and aggression; and somatic symptoms such as abdominal pain or headaches.

Adolescents and young adults – verbalization of distress but hiding concerns, which could present as irritability, inability to concentrate, poor school performance, and the use of substances.

It can be common for children to regress developmentally during times of stress, so parents can support their children and adolescents in a variety of ways (American Academy of Pediatrics, 2021).

Maintain open and honest communication. Parents and caregivers should engage in age-appropriate conversations with children about the pandemic and truthfully answer questions children may have.  

Continue to follow mitigation strategies. As the seasons change, children may be encouraged to spend more time outdoors, which could allow for opportunities for children to connect with family and friends in person. While it may be safer to play and visit outdoors, families should continue to follow social distancing guidelines.

Provide screen-time limits. Spending more time at home can mean spending more time on digital devices. Parents should continue to monitor age-appropriate use of screens, and, if usage becomes problematic, parents are encouraged to develop a family media plan.

Be present. Being present and showing empathy can be positive ways to support your child(ren). In addition, parents can find ways to cope with stress as a family, like talking about scary feelings or practicing relaxation techniques (e.g., yoga). For older children and adolescents, parents could encourage their children to volunteer in the community, such as helping load groceries at a local food bank or asking them to choose some toys and books to donate to women’s resource centers.

Identify community resources. There are community organizations that provide support to families. For example, the United Way (https://www.unitedway.org) or the Universal Service Administrative Company (https://www.usac.org) are organizations that may benefit your family or child(ren). For additional information on finding helpful resources, please visit your local organizations (e.g., YMCA, community centers, base service unit) or your local county websites for more information.

If, at any time, you are concerned about your child’s emotional health and well-being, reach out to your pediatrician as he or she can provide additional guidance and resources that can assist you as you support your child.

References

American Academy of Pediatrics. (2021, March). Interim guidance on supporting the emotional and behavioral health needs of children, adolescents, and families during the COVID-19 pandemic. https://services.aap.org/en/pages/2019-novel-coronavirus-covid-19-infections/clinical-guidance/interim-guidance-on-supporting-the-emotional-and-behavioral-health-needs-of-children-adolescents-and-families-during-the-covid-19-pandemic/

Promoting Healthy Behaviors to Reduce the Spread of COVID-19

As we continue to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, parents and families should remain diligent in modeling and promoting healthy behaviors that reduce the spread of COVID-19. Currently, a vaccine is not available to help minimize and prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Fortunately, there are several strategies, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2020), that you can implement within your family system that may reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Know How it Spreads

SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, spreads from person to person through respiratory droplets that are produced and distributed when an infected person talks, coughs, or sneezes within close proximity to other people (about six feet). These infected droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby and may be inhaled into these people’s lungs. Recent studies suggest that some people may spread the virus even though they may not experience symptoms. If you do not have symptoms but still carry the virus, you would be known as an asymptomatic carrier.

Stay Home When Appropriate

Limiting close face-to-face contact with people outside of your household is a good way to prevent exposure to and reduce the spread of COVID-19. When appropriate, stay at home with members of your household. Even if you are at home, you can still enjoy outdoor spaces around your home or neighborhood but be sure to continue to practice physical distancing with people who are not in your household.  Physical distancing, or social distancing, is the practice of maintaining six feet between all individuals.

Avoid Close Contact

When inside your home, avoid close contact with people who are sick, and, if possible, maintain six feet between the person who is sick and other household members.

Before deciding to go out in public, you should consider the level of risk for yourself and your family members and ensure you take appropriate protective measures. When outside of your home, limit your interactions with other people as much as possible and maintain six feet of distance (indoors and outdoors) between yourself and people who do not live in your household. Keeping distance from others is especially important for people who are at higher risk of getting very sick (e.g., older adults; people with underlying medical conditions like weakened immune system, Type 2 diabetes, chronic kidney disease). Generally speaking, your risk of getting and spreading COVID-19 increases depending on the more people you come in contact with, the more closely you interact with them, and the longer that interaction lasts.

Hand Hygiene and Respiratory Etiquette

Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water throughout the day, especially after being in a public place, blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. It is also important to wash your hands before touching your face, before preparing food, after using the restroom, after handling your cloth face covering, after changing a diaper, after caring for someone who is sick, and after touching animals or pets. If soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.

Always cover your mouth and nose – either with a tissue or inside your elbow – when you cough or sneeze, and, then, immediately throw used tissues in the trash and wash your hands (or use hand sanitizer).

Cloth Face Coverings

Cloth face coverings have been found to be a “simple, economic and sustainable alternative to surgical masks as a means of source control of SARS-CoV-2 in the general community” (Esposito, Principi, Leung, & Migliori, 2020, p. 1) and could be beneficial particularly where transmission may be pre-symptomatic (MacIntyre & Chughtai, 2020).

Everyone should wear a cloth face covering in public settings and when around people who do not live in your household, especially when physical distancing is difficult to maintain. When wearing the cloth face covering, continue to keep six feet of physical distance between yourself and others. Children, under the age of 2, should not wear cloth face coverings. In addition, anyone who has trouble breathing or is unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance should not wear a cloth face covering.

Cleaning and Disinfection

Clean and disinfect frequently touched services, such as tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks, with a household disinfectant on a daily basis.

Monitor Your Family Members Health Daily

Monitor yourself and family members to watch for symptoms of COVID-19 especially if you are running errands, going into an office or workplace, or visiting settings where it may be difficult to keep a physical distance of six feet. Common symptoms include fever, cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting, and diarrhea. If you or members of your family do begin to experience symptoms, contact your primary care physician. Remember – most people experience a mild form of the illness and are able to recover at home. However, if someone is experiencing distress (e.g., trouble breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, new confusion, inability to wake or stay awake, bluish lips or face), get emergency medical care immediately.

References

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020, July 7). Considerations for events and gatherings. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/large-events/considerations-for-events-gatherings.html

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020, June 25). People of any age with underlying medical conditions. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/need-extra-precautions/people-with-medical-conditions.html?CDC_AA_refVal=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.cdc.gov%2Fcoronavirus%2F2019-ncov%2Fneed-extra-precautions%2Fgroups-at-higher-risk.html

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020, May 13). Symptoms of Coronavirus. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/symptoms-testing/symptoms.html

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020, April 24). How to protect yourself & others. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/prevention.html

Esposito, S., Principi, N., Eung, C. C., & Migliori, G. B. (2020). Universal use of face masks or success against COVID-19: Evidence and implications for prevention policies. European Respiratory Journal, 55(6), 2001260. doi: 10.1183/13993003.01260-2020

MacIntyre, C. R., & Chughtai, A. A., (2020). A rapid systematic review of the efficacy of face masks and respirators against coronaviruses and other respiratory transmissible viruses for the community, healthcare workers and sick patients. International Journal of Nursing Studies, 108, 103629.