How to convince teenagers to take COVID-19 seriously

Science

As confirmed COVID-19 cases continue to rise across the U.S., it can be frustrating to see people dismiss the official advice for curbing the spread of the pandemic. And when the resistance is coming from within your own household, it’s even more infuriating.

Step forward Pandemic Teen — an even more irritating dependent than Regular Teen. It’s natural for teenagers to push boundaries and question authority, of course. But if there’s ever a time for them to skip the parties, stop sneaking out, and just do what you ask (i.e. wear the mask!), it’s now.

“Infection rates among teens are going up,” says Carol Winner, MPH, public health expert and founder of social distancing brand Give Space. “States like Florida and California are seeing cases among those under age 18 on a rapid rise — California is at a rate of 8 percent infection in that age group.” Indeed, recent research suggests that kids between ages 10 and 19 are catching and spreading COVID-19 at the same rate as adults.

So how can parents get the message across to their teenagers that the pandemic is not to be taken lightly?

Part of the problem is that teens are naturally inclined to break the rules and assert their individuality. Blame it on their brains. “This is their primary developmental task,” says child and adolescent psychiatrist and author Gayani DeSilva, MD. “They’re also developing higher cortical structures and the ability to make complex decisions. They may still be thinking in concrete terms, and not able to consider situations and decisions in abstract ways. This makes their decision making seem superficial, or immature. It is — but they can’t help it.”

While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and most state leaders, have issued rules regarding face coverings, social distancing, and hygiene, often the guidelines simply aren’t clear enough for teenagers to understand. There’s also the problem of information and guidance changing constantly, often without warning.

“The information teens get is confusing,” Dr. DeSilva says. “They are natural risk takers, so unless they get clear messages about how to be safe, they will take risks and shun some good advice.”

Part of a parent’s role during the pandemic is helping their teen make sense of those conflicting messages. Dr. DeSilva recommends sitting down with them and explaining the risks of the pandemic in simple, straightforward terms, then telling them in clear language the behavior expected from them. And simple really does mean simple. Try something like: “We want you to wear a mask at all times when you’re in public.”

Like all productive conversations with a teenager, the key is to listen. “Ask them what they think. Ask them if they have concerns and what scares them. Ask them if they have questions about the pandemic and guidelines. Ask them what they want to do, and how they want to keep themselves safe,” Dr. DeSilva says. Then, when you have their attention, tell them what’s at the root of all this — you …read more

Source:: The Week – Science

      

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