Lockdown: Helping teenagers cope with lockdown (Parentzone)
Being a teenager is a long, slow process of growing away from your family. But coronavirus lockdowns around the globe have meant that young people have been thrust back into the heart of their families.
Social distancing and self-isolation have brought challenges for everyone. But teens face a particularly hard time.
With schools mostly closed, young people may well feel disorientated. They have been cut off from those they care most about – their friends. The initial euphoria about dodging exams has been replaced for many by sadness about all the things they’re missing - the summer term, the sporting events, the performances, the parties, the gatherings, the end-of-exams fun, the flirtations.
On top of all that, they’re having to spend enormous amounts of time with their parents. Just when they want more control over their lives, they’ve suddenly got less. So how can you help?
Teens need some routine if they're not going to drive you mad, and you're not going to drive them mad. Talk to teens about the need to find new ways to organise their days. 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 give shape to the day and mean less boredom.
There’s more focus on home at the moment, so get them to help with the chores, the cooking, keeping an eye on younger siblings. Create an atmosphere of ‘all in it together’ which will help them take responsibility and feel they have a valuable part to play.
At the same time, encourage them to get away from you and socialise. Screen-time rules have had to be relaxed for everyone. Don't worry about that, certainly not for now. Keeping in touch with their friends is vital for their wellbeing. Apps like Google Hangouts, Houseparty and Zoom offer opportunities to chat and play games.
No doubt they’ll be relying on digital tech more than ever before. Again, this is fine - but you should still emphasise the need to get enough sleep, to learn new things, to respond to anything their teachers suggest, to be physically active and to have face-to-face time with the family.
Accept that there will be times when they want to get away into their private space and try to make that possible.
Talk to them about the virus - which should help them get perspective, and will also help them behave responsibly, even when they feel frustrated. Young people are less likely to be affected by Covid-19 (though they certainly shouldn’t be complacent: what they do will affect others), so they’re well placed to be help others, for example delivering supplies to people who are self-isolating or quarantining.
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.
Keep up to date with the advice. Make sure they know what behaviour is acceptable and permitted - and that they're aware of any special circumstances that apply to them if, for example, they have family members who are vulnerable.
Dealing with anxiety
It’s understandable that teens will be sad about what they’ve missed this spring and summer, 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 and about what the world is going to be like afterwards. Are they getting their information from reputable sources? The World Health Organisation (WHO) is a good place 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. Remind them, too, that the future isn't fixed: it is up to all of us to make it as good as possible.
Encourage teens to take control by 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.
Understanding the impact of lockdown on teens, SANCA Horizon challenges you to Kick the Habit of isolation with your teens and only practice social distancing! Join SANCA National’s 2020 campaign and Kick this Habit during lockdown!