Raising teenagers can be challenging at the best of times, lockdown I imagine has brought a whole new set of challenges for them and for you as a parent/carer.
This blog is aimed at children coming towards the end of their second Jing cycle of life; 14 years old for a girl and 15 years for a boy. However, you may still find this of use and relatable living with a child/adolescent of any age.
At this stage of life teenagers have a surge of Yang energy. Yang in Chinese Medicine (CM) is the hot, restless, transformation, active, external side of the Taiji symbol.
For a teen this surge of Yang energy may appear as; moving away from the family, having an outward focus, fuels sensitivity and gives them the drive and ability to separate. Everything becomes magnified: feelings, responses, and emotional reactions.
Whereas a rise in Yin energy we would expect to see more; hiding away, more sleep and time spent alone in their room.
To support these Yin-Yang energies outside of the treatment room they need to be able to; express their feelings, have space, time, opportunity to retreat and protection whilst going through this developmental change.
Lockdown is a good time for teenagers to catch up on much needed sleep that the school routine deprives them of.
Melatonin is the hormone that encourages our sleep cycle to begin. In teenager’s melatonin is released approx. 2 hours later than it is for children and adults approx. 11pm onwards which is why your teen may struggle to fall asleep before this time. In young children it is released at approx. 6pm and between 9-11pm for adults.
Cortisol is responsible for waking us up, it is not activated in teenagers until about 9am which on a typical school day sees them up, dressed and in school ready to learn when they should in fact be just waking up. Each day these young people are losing essential sleep and ability to build Yin energy (to further support their emotions).
To support their sleep outside of the treatment room; let them sleep during lockdown and catch up on building up their Yin. Encourage as difficult as it can be healthy sleep hygiene; do not study late into the night, have time off social media/computer games before trying to sleep, time away from a screen particularly a tablet that emits blue LED light, energy/high sugar drinks should be avoided at the best of times but especially late into the night.
The Five Elements in Teenagers
One of our tools of diagnosis in CM is the Wu Xing theory also known as the Five elements: Fire, Earth, Metal, Water and Wood.
The wood element in our teens brings them vision and the need to break away from family and the desire to follow their own path. The wood energy needs to be expressed, if not they will feel every constraint in their lives. Your teen may be finding that they cannot express themselves as they normally would during this period of lockdown, and they may be feeling very frustrated by this.
How to support the Wood element outside of the treatment room; let them vent, anger is not a taboo emotion. Encourage exercise to keep their liver qi moving, allow independence, watch their diet especially cravings their having and caffeine. Ensure your teenage girl is eating a blood nourishing diet (ask me for a copy) to support their periods.
The fire element in teenagers is all about their self-expression to test out identities of who they want to be in the future, passion, relationships, and friendships. Believe it or not our Fire element needs stillness and not melodramas. Fire also needs laughter as the emotion associated with it is Joy.
How to support the Fire element outside of the treatment room; pick your battles – is your argument worth it or is it too damaging? Take time for intimacy with your teen – stop and be present with them. Encourage where possible your home to be as peaceful as possible to protect your teen. Stop and have fun, laugh with your teen. Encourage social connections with friends whilst they cannot socialise physically.
The earth element provides grounding, stability, concentration, and nourishment and is especially important role for the teenager, they are having strong feelings to find their tribes outside of the family home.
To support their earth element outside of the treatment room; encourage them to take on more self-care, encourage them to find mothering/nurturing roles such as cooking, gardening, life skills etc. As the earth element is associated with digestion try where possible to support a healthy diet.
The metal element is all about our feelings and attachments to the physical world around us, finding meaning, value, inspiration, and purpose.
To support their metal element outside of the treatment room; model that it is ok to feel sad about this lockdown situation, to cry if needs be and grieve to help you move forward and through such intense feelings. Allow them to express themselves, give them space and let them retreat. Encourage breathwork either through exercise such as yoga, Pilates, qi gong or simple breathing exercises (ask me for suggestions).
This element is a particularly important to support a teenager’s hormonal and developmental changes. The water element is a time of introspection and slowing down. It is associated with wisdom, stamina, and endurance. When our water is out of balance you may see higher levels of fear and anxieties especially if your teen normally lives a fast-paced life.
To support their water element outside of the treatment room; encourage them to find out what their downtime is (that is NOT adrenalin fueled), encourage grounding activities such as walks outside and ways of how they can learn to calm themselves down.
Remember that although we cannot always see it, there is a lot going on under the surface. Your teenager is probably going to feel more constrained by current circumstances than any other age group as it is hindering their natural developmental process. Remember that maintaining their friendships is a necessity for them-not a luxury. Give them space to both retreat and expand (yin and yang). Finally, your rapport and connection are more important than anything else.
Stay home and stay safe