During this unknown and precarious time it is important to ensure we all address our worries or anxiety. The Pieta Clinical team have prepared tips on how to support your teenager.
1. Communicate: One of the most important things to communicate with your teenager during the Covid-19 crisis is that there is no right or wrong way to feel. Encourage them to communicate their feelings by talking about how you feel. Normalise any reaction they might be having.
2. Schooling: Remind your teenager not to be too hard on themselves if they haven’t been able to adjust to e-learning as quickly as some of their peers. While some people enjoy independent study, many others struggle without the structure of the classroom and the physical presence of a teacher. Let your teenager know that it’s ok to have difficulties. Set realistic expectations.
3. Avoid rumours: Remind your teenager not to engage with rumours. It’s understandable to want answers about the future however the reality is that for many scenarios, (including schooling and exams in Ireland) decisions are still being made. The most helpful thing to do is encourage your teenager to work with the information they currently have and dismiss any information that does not come from a reliable source. Remind them that the responsibility to figure things out doesn’t lie with them. The government and schools are working hard to find the best solution.
4. Be aware of the impact of social media: Peer relationships are often one of the most important parts of a teenager’s life. Social media will make it very easy for adolescences to stay in touch with their friends during this period of social distancing. While this is hugely positive it could also easily become overwhelming. Talk to your teenager about being mindful of the impact social media has on their mood. Encourage them to schedule some breaks from their devices.
5. Establish a routine: While a break from the rush of every day life feels great to begin with, a lack of routine can have a massive impact on our mood. It’s important to help your teenager establish a balance between having fun, connecting with others and working towards something that gives them a sense of achievement. Encourage your teenager to plan out a structure to their week. This structure will help create a sense of normality in such uncertain times.
6. Encourage goal setting: One of the positives of having so much extra free time is the ability to work on all those hobbies we usually don’t get enough time to practice. The funny thing about free time is that sometimes the more of it we have the less we get done. Encourage your teenager to set themselves a goal for each week. This will help motivate them to improve in whatever their area of interest is.
7. Avoid isolation: Although many teenagers will keep in touch with friends through social media for some this could be a very lonely time. For some young people the sudden lack of interaction with peers through school and extracurricular activities could have a profound impact on their mood. Encourage your teenager to get involved in family activities and take a break from time in their room. The lack of distractions and additional free time at present may mean that those who struggle with anxiety or low mood have a lot of extra time alone with their thoughts.
8. Exercise: Staying in our homes for most of the day means we are all physically moving a lot less. A sudden reduction in activity levels can quickly lower our mood. Encourage daily exercise. The impact it has on our mental health cannot be underestimated. We are very lucky to live in a time where any exercise routine we desire is only a click away. This could be a fun family activity.
9. Manage your own anxiety. If you are feeling overwhelmed too be mindful of the impact your stress could have on your teenager. Help the young people in life feel safe and secure by modelling how to be solution focused in your approach to worries. Show your teenager how to problem solve.
10. Help Build Resilience. At times like this, it can feel like everything is out of our control, particularly for teenagers. To support their sense of stability and control, help them to be solution focused. Try not to rush to ‘fix it’ and let them talk through how they think they can problem solve. It is empowering for teenagers to work through their problems so be the listening ear and guide them through.
11. Ask for help. It is important to know when to help. Let your teenager know they can come to you or another trusted adult if they are feeling unable to manage on their own. Share information with them about support that’s available for those who are struggling. Let them know it’s ok to ask for help.