Many teens are feeling stressed and overwhelmed by the shutdown BUT many are not. Some teens with intense social anxiety or who are bullied are feeling relief. Relief from being consumed with a fear of being judged…from being picked on…or from having to face their social fears.
One parent described her teen as being “happy as a clam.” Another told us that her teen “hasn’t been this calm in years.”
WHY ARE THERE THESE PARENTS WORRIED?
You are probably wondering what the problem is? Happy as a clam seems great. What’s the problem?? Well, though not planned avoidance, the very act of avoiding discomfort is what actually creates more discomfort!! The more we avoid our distress, the more we experience intense problematic behaviors as the cycle of avoidance continues.
Anxiety naturally limits interactions and healthy risk taking that develops our confidence. Parents are worried about the long-term effects of social distancing because this forced avoidance actually increases anxiety.
What will happen when school shutdown ends?
* “How will I get her back to school whenever this is over?”
* “How do I get him to socialize and make friends after this if he already struggles?”
* “Will he lose all the progress he was making in therapy because of social distancing?”
These concerns are valid and real. Exposure therapy helps treat anxiety because it is the opposite of avoidance.
As teen specialists, we are seeing two types of teens right now.
- For some teens it is torture not being able to socialize and see their friends. They never thought they would miss school and structure, but they do.
- For others, it is heaven. No more constant worrying, exhaustion, stomach aches, and more. They are relaxed. BUT this will end.
If your teen is socially anxious and suddenly thrilled to be home, it is time to REFRAME social distancing. Rather than looking at this time as avoidance, help your teen to view this as a time to reset.
If your teen needs additional support to reframe or reset their thinking, online therapy can help your teen develop skills to expose themselves to their anxieties and experience managing them successfully!