It’s a new version of the dating game. Teens now “date” on FaceTime and text for hours. If they do meet in person, masks are in place and they need to stay six feet apart, usually with an adult making sure there’s no closer contact. COVID-19 has put a kibosh on adolescent canoodling.
“It’s a tough time to be young and in love,” Jessica England, a licensed marriage and family therapist in San Francisco told CNN. “Getting teenagers to see the big picture and think long-term is really, really hard.”
While COVID-19 is less likely to be severe in teens, they still may act as vectors, transmitting the virus from one person to another, according the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, even if they have no symptoms.
Experts say one of the reasons teens balk at the new social distancing rules boils down to brain development. According to CNN, the last part of the brain to develop is the prefrontal lobe “which controls executive functions.” Experts say that this part of the brain continues to develop until we are 25-years-old and makes teenagers less able to see the enormity and gravity of the big picture.
“It’s physically difficult for teenagers to imagine these sorts of things and understand them,” Scyatta Wallace, associate professor of psychology at St. John’s University in Jamaica, New York told CNN.
Experts at the University of Michigan say that parents should be empathic to the angst of teenage love, and while we may be tempted to tell them how lucky they are to be alive during this pandemic, it doesn’t reinforce their feelings.
It’s also important to create boundaries so that school work is completed before video chats begin. Dr. Terrill Bravender, M.D., chief of adolescent medicine at Michigan Medicine C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, said parents should encourage teens to unplug and spend at least an hour outdoors every day.
But parents should also be flexible and realize that teens will be teens, and they don’t like to be told what to do.
“Rule No. 1 is that teenage boys and teenage girls will find ways to get together,” Joe Rodgers, a professor of psychology and human development at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, told CNN. “Rule No. 2 is that pandemics don’t change Rule No. 1.”
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