Healthy Adults for Healthy Kids:
Modeling in the Time of COVID-19

Adult Role-Modeling Webinars 
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As a prevention organization, we understand the power of global COVID-19 prevention efforts. We also recognize that, in the face of drastically altered schedules and daily routines, this can be a difficult time to maintain healthy habits, for adults and especially for teens.
Adult role-modeling and the ever-watchful child and teen
While being a parent or caregiver is a meaningful and rewarding job, it can also be stressful. Especially during times of uncertainty and evolving shifts in daily life, caregiver stress can lead to physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion.
Yet, your young people need you more than ever at this time. The teenage brain is still developing and craves structure. Separated from the framework of school and after-school activities, teens are now more than ever looking to the healthy adults in their lives for guidance.  
Healthy role-modeling during new routines           
How can you, as a caring adult, be a healthy role model during the current health crisis? How do these skills also apply to substance misuse prevention?
Discuss your feelings, and your teen's, with them . Adult vulnerability is powerful. In an age appropriate way, let your children and teens know what new stresses are a part of life for you. Share the healthy ways that you are meeting and overcoming those stresses. Help them name their feelings, listen, and seek healthy solutions with and for them.
The relationship to substance misuse prevention: Teens who have supportive adults helping them to navigate a healthy response to uncomfortable feelings are more likely than teens without these supports to make healthier, less impulsive choices to relieve stress.
Set time limits around potentially unhealthy habits, like internet usage and social media. When setting a new limit, share your reasons with your teen. Say, "This is a new family limit we are setting to take care of your/our health." Allow them to ask questions, while keeping the limit set. If you've put similar practices into play for your own mental health, such as limiting your intake of the news, share with your children about how you are keeping this promise to yourself and your family.
The relationship to substance misuse prevention: Teens tend to overestimate the potential rewards of an unhealthy choice and underestimate the risks. By setting, keeping, and explaining health-based rules, adults can help teens develop more accurate perceptions about the risks of unhealthy behaviors and the rewards of healthy ones.
Try a new healthy high and encourage your children to do the same. While at home, what can you do to bring wellness, fun, identity exploration and/or bonding into your lives? Make a list of options in collaboration with your children and go for it as a family!
The relationship to substance misuse prevention: Not all teens know that substance-free highs like exercise, artistic pursuits, and simple pleasures like joking and laughing can produce a high in the brain that offers some of the same rewards as intoxication without any of the risks. The more substance-free highs a young person can engage in, the less desirable use may be to them.
Consider your use of and attitudes about alcohol and other drugs at this time. What you say about alcohol and other drugs, how your use or non-use has changed or remained the same during this time, and how you handle challenges without substances are likely more visible now to the young people in your lives than before.
The relationship to substance misuse prevention: Allowing the young people in your life to see you dealing with stress in substance-free ways continues to send the message that substance use is not a healthy response to life's challenges.
Modeling self-care as a protective factor  
All over the world, FCD students tell Prevention Specialists that daily, unaddressed stresses are a key reason why some of their peers drink alcohol, vape, or use other drugs.
Self-care is the practice of being able to identify one's own needs and to proactively attend to them in ways that prevent illness and promote health. Self-care, along with the other healthy role-modeling strategies mentioned above, is a potent protective factor against the risky use of alcohol or other drugs in tough times.
Effective self-care can look different for different people. To model self-care for your children and teens, consider options that are realistic and sustainable, especially for you and your family.
To get you started, here are some ideas to explore:
Establish a routine for yourself and your loved ones. If you are used to life at the office, working from home and navigating your child's shift to online school can feel unmanageable. Creating a schedule enforces structure and eases anxiety for yourself and those in your care.
Attend to your own health. You are more equipped to handle stress and help others when your own needs are met. These needs include sleep, balanced meals, physical activity, and healthcare. Incorporating these items in your daily schedule will not only help allot ample time, but also make them a priority.
Counteract stress by activating your body's "relaxation response." Mindfulness and mind-body activities such as deep breathing or yoga can help you relax and re-center. During quarantine or social distancing, try a nature walk, online yoga video, or meditation app.
Reach out to a support system. Regular online communication with friends, family members, a therapist, or a support group can help you stay connected and feel supported, especially during times of physical distance.
Practice self-compassion. Many of us are dealing with unprecedented challenges. The additional stress that comes during times like this can lead to anxiety, frustration, and irritability. Be realistic about your limits and needs. Give yourself permission to experience a range of emotions and to take breaks. Taking time to focus on self-care is not selfish.
Early use of alcohol or any other drug is always a risk during the adolescent years. Your role modeling can always be a protective factor against that use, even in the most unprecedented of times. We hope that you and your family will work together to consider how to promote health and reduce teen risks with special intention. And, FCD is here to support that effort you're making as prevention agents in your children's lives!
About the Authors
Becky Bergeron, FCD Supervising Field Officer and Senior Prevention Specialist, holds Bachelor's degrees in Psychology and Art from St. Mary's College of Maryland, and a M.S.W. from the University of Maryland, Baltimore. As a Licensed Graduate Social Worker, Becky has served as a school mental health counselor and a therapist for youth in treatment foster care. Prior to this, she was a counselor at a halfway house for women in early recovery as well as a residential treatment center for youth with emotional and behavioral disorders.
FCD Senior Prevention Specialist Stacey Wisniewski holds Bachelor's and Master's degrees in English and Literature from Arcadia University and has worked with adolescents in several teaching and mentoring positions in and out of schools. When she is not traveling for FCD, Stacey works with groups and individuals on maintaining a spiritual path to recovery. 
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