Being a teenager is a long, slow process of growing away from your family. Yet in the current COVID19 pandemic our teenagers are suddenly being launched back into the close confines of their families, whether they want to be or not!
Everyone is facing challenges brought about by isolation and social distancing but teenagers face a particularly hard time, they’re cut off from some of the people they care most about – their friends. The initial excitement that came with the schools closing and dodging exams/lessons has now been replaced by the realization of all the things they’re missing – the summer term, sports finals, the performances, the parties, the gatherings, the end-of-exams fun, the flirtations.
This realization of what they’re missing out on, comes side by side with being forced to spend all of their time with their parents and siblings. In a period of their lives when they crave more independence and control over their lives they have suddenly got less! So how can you help?
Some routine can really help if you’re going to avoid driving each other mad. Talk to teens about the need to find new ways to arrange your days. Boredom is the enemy right now. What do they need to do (learning, exercise, friends-time, down-time) and what do you need to do to make that possible? More structure should, hopefully, mean less boredom.
Attempting to create an “all in it together” atmosphere by getting them to help around the house can aid in giving them a sense of responsibility and a feeling of being needed. This can also help everyone survive while “living on top of each other” with much more focus being on the home it can help to have a team effort in maintaining it.
At the same time, it is important to encourage them to socialise. Screen-time rules may have to be relaxed as it’s vital for them to keep in touch with their friends. Zoom and facetime can be excellent ways for them to keep in touch and feel that important closeness to their friends.
No doubt they’ll be relying on technology more than ever before. This is fine – but you should still emphasise the need to get enough sleep, to keep on top of any schoolwork their teachers may have set, to be physically active – exercise is very important for both their physical and mental health, and to engage with their family face-to-face.
There will be times when they want some alone-time, accept this and try to make it possible. Talk to them about the virus – which should help them get perspective, and will also help them behave responsibly, even though they feel frustrated.
The Government’s scientific advisers – Sage – have said that “the risk of infection outside is significantly lower than inside”. This has meant that the lockdown rules have been updated “so that, as well as exercise, people can now also spend time outdoors subject to: not meeting up with any more than one person from outside your household; [and] continued compliance with social distancing guidelines to remain two metres (6ft) away from people outside your household”.
This suggests there’s nothing to stop teens meeting outside, in twos, if they maintain social distancing (staying two metres apart and not touching). The advice may change regularly, so keep up to date with the latest guidance from the NHS.
Study after study finds that people who volunteer tend to be happier than those who don’t. Young people who are feeling their lives are out of control may find that doing something positive for other people helps.
Dealing with anxiety
It’s understandable that teens will be sad about what they’re missing and it’s important to acknowledge their losses – to show them you know that these are not trivial things, and you appreciate that it’s horrible to have to do without them.
They may find it hard to think about the future. Reassure them that this period will pass – and also that we may see things differently afterwards, so there could be opportunities to make the world better that they haven’t yet thought of.
Talk to them about their concerns about the virus. Are they getting their information from reputable sources? The NHS website, the UK government’s information, and the World Health Organisation (WHO) are all good places to start. The WHO has some excellent advice, including to avoid looking at the news constantly, perhaps rationing yourself to a couple of times a day.
Encourage teens to take control by structuring their days and setting themselves goals. Put yourself in their shoes and try to see things from their point of view. Model good behaviour – if you are calm and rational, they will be too.
Finally, if they (or you!) are in need of extra support during this very challenging time, Joints and Points talking therapy service is offering remote therapy sessions either online or via the telephone and are currently offering a free 20min consultation. #Why suffer in silence?
Office number – 0151 345 6823
Office email – firstname.lastname@example.org