Quaranteened!

Our personal experience

Since lockdown started in earnest there have been a wealth of resources circulating on social media for parents of younger children, from painting rainbows and baking cakes to the highly popular PE with Joe Wicks.

However, there are far fewer tips in circulation when it comes to helping teenagers (and even tweenagers) deal with this crisis. Try making a teenager get up in the morning for a workout, or indeed do anything they don’t want to do, and you quickly realise that helping this particular demographic during this difficult time is an uphill battle unless they are unusually good at moderation and self-care.

Several of us at Parental Choice have tweenage and teenage children, ranging from 11 to 18 years old so the following article is written very much from personal experience, with a pinch or two of expert advice thrown into the mix. One thing is clear from the outset, it’s tough enough being a hormonal teenager at the best of times and for many lockdown life is making things harder (both for the teens themselves as well as their families).

Stifling their independence

Of course, the teenage years are normally about a gradual breaking away from dependence on the immediate family unit, as peers and other adult mentor figures start to hold greater influence. This is an entirely natural process but one that has been somewhat thwarted by the coronavirus pandemic. Instead of being free to hang out with their friends, teenagers are cooped up at home, forced to spend their days with parents and siblings.

Older teenagers (of course there is an enormous difference between a 13-year-old and a 19-year-old) may also be dealing with not being able to see their boyfriend of girlfriend because they don’t live together. Those in this age group may also still be working in the outside world. The fact that you can’t see your romantic partner, or your friends may feel especially hard to swallow if you are coming into daily contact with scores of strangers while sitting at the cash desk in the local supermarket.

Managing cancelled plans

As if all this weren’t tricky enough, thousands of young people are also coming to terms with the fact that their exams have been cancelled (whether these be GCSEs, A-levels or even university finals). Initial joy at hearing this news has in many cases turned to grief as the realisation that they have been denied the usual rite of passage of exams, end of term plays and parties sinks in. This sense of loss is compounded by a genuine anxiety about the future.

Practical tips and advice

So, what can parents do to help their teen keep positive during the lockdown? Here are some suggestions, bearing in mind of course that children differ widely in personality and temperament and that age also has a big impact on the best way to interact with them:

  • Help them create some structure in their day without being overly prescriptive. It’s important to get up at a reasonable time and not to go to bed too late, to get fresh air and to do some sort of physical activity. If things have gone to pot a bit recently over the Easter holidays then the school term starting up again next week might provide a bit of extra focus for them – especially if the school is facilitating online classes or meet-ups.
  • This is an extraordinary time and the usual routine is disrupted. Help them see that the whole household is ‘in it together’ and they might be more willing to help with household tasks than they are normally.
  • Make sure they eat healthily. Teens are particularly susceptible to filling boredom by eating too much sugar but given that everyone is at home all the time you should be able to control mealtimes and snack intake more easily than before – as long as you choose carefully when it comes to the shopping!
  • Encouraging them to set their own goals and daily challenges might be a good way to keep them motivated. There are all sorts of tutorials online, whether it’s learning the guitar, drawing anime, painting with watercolour, doing a daily yoga class – catering for every interest and providing inspiration. Anyone for running 5k in laps around the garden? In this sense, the internet is a life saver right now.
  • On that note, screen time rules may have to be less rigid than usual. Messaging, FaceTiming, Zooming etc with friends is a lifeline to social contact. Just be aware that too much social media may have a negative impact on mood and that the usual teenage dramas may escalate quicker than normal – often the case when there aren’t enough other distractions and face-to-face meetups can’t happen to clear the air. Keep to screens off at least an hour before bedtime if you can. The meditation app Headspace might be an exception to that rule (see list of resources below).
  • Family activities such as board games and card games and quizzes can really help with family ‘bonding’ as well as scheduling time to watch something together (rather than everyone off in their own rooms watching YouTube on their phones). We’d advise against horrors or thrillers just before bed!
  • It’s important to monitor your teen’s news sources and explain to them where to find news that is trustworthy and not overly sensationalist.
  • In general, be open to listening to your teen’s anxieties and frustrations about the lockdown and its implications for their life. Be honest and open about the situation (they can read the news as well as you) but try to keep your own anxieties at bay. Self-care for you as the parent is critical – you can’t support your teen if you are overwhelmed yourself.
Resources

Clare de Lotbiniere – BACP Accredited Counsellor and Psychotherapist

https://www.anitacleare.co.uk/thinking-parenting/ (parenting expert blog)

https://parentzone.org.uk/article/quaranteened-helping-teenagers-cope-lockdown

https://www.unicef.org/coronavirus/how-teenagers-can-protect-their-mental-health-during-coronavirus-covid-19

www.themix.org.uk (24/7 emotional wellbeing and mental health support for young people aged 13-25).

https://youngminds.org.uk/ (advice and mental health support for young people)

https://www.headspace.com (mindfulness app for all ages offering free support during the current crisis)

Girl with pink headphones photo by Gavin Whitner


Parental Choice helps working families secure care solutions for their children and elderly relatives, all backed up with a comprehensive payroll, pension and legal team.

We also work with small and large businesses to support the wellbeing of parents and those with eldercare responsibilities.

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