At a time when they would naturally be taking their first steps to independence and enjoying greater freedom, life for teenagers has currently shrunk to the size of their living space, and the embarrassing parents they are forced to share it with.
Fegans counsellor Louise Tantam shares some great advice for families with teenagers struggling at this time – and reassures parents that they needn’t feel endlessly guilty about relaxing the rules around lie ins and screen time!
Top 10 Tips for Teenagers
1 – Lie-Ins
Take the opportunity to try a new structure to the day, allowing teenagers to get up a bit later, which studies have shown suits the adolescent brain.
Acknowledge the benefits of gaming and social media as a lifeline to the outside world and a means of developing social skills. Gaming (when used in moderation) can bring some benefits. Cognitive skills are developed through visual processing, problem solving, analysing information and making decisions. Just ensure you maintain some healthy boundaries around screen time as a family and being curious about how they remain safe on social media. Greg Dunbar, father to two sons says his position on screen time has changed since the last lockdown: “In the first lockdown I tried to be really strict about screens because I was worried about the increasing amount of time our 14-year-old son was spending gaming with his friends. The arguments we had about it were exhausting and I felt really guilty all the time I was working and could hear him gaming. During the working day it wasn’t as if I could just leave my desk and take him on a bike ride or anything like that. But with the latest lockdown I’ve been a lot more relaxed. There is very little else he can do in the middle of winter and so long as he has done his schoolwork and a bit of exercise, he can game away as far as I am concerned. Gaming is his way connecting and keeping his friendships alive. When he’s on with his friends he is animated and happy and that’s what he needs right now. Social interaction and a bit of banter. It’s what we all need isn’t it?”
Plan for the future and talk about what your teenager would like to do when lockdown is lifted. Acknowledge their disappointment but be imaginative and collaborative about alternative ways they can mark rites of passage in the meantime.
4 -Expect poor behaviour
Look for emotions behind their behaviour and show empathy and patience. Do not attempt to have conversations when they are at the height of distress when their brains are incapable of rational thinking. And don’t take things too personally. Remember that children will bring their most hateful and difficult feelings to the people they love most and feel secure with.
5 -Check in with your teen
Be aware of negative coping strategies in teens for example, use of drugs and alcohol, self-harm or eating problems. Let your child know that there are adults around especially trained to support young people if they feel unable to talk to you. If you would like refer a teenager to Fegans for counselling (currently available via Zoom) please leave your details here. There are also lots of free resources on the internet via organisations like www.youngminds.org.uk
Encourage exercise and time outdoors. Exercise promotes chemical change in the brain that reduces anxiety, improves mood and makes you relaxed. Encourage time outside which increases serotonin a mood stabiliser and brings feelings of well-being and happiness. Sun helps our body create vitamin D levels which keep bones, teeth and muscles healthy.
7 -Talk about the news
News, close-to-home, which used to be their safe place – has been frightening and relentless over the past year. So talk to teenagers about the news, and have adult conversations about the decisions politicians are making. This will help them to process thoughts and talk through anxieties.
8 -Find their inner calm
Encourage mindful activities such as meditation and journaling. Mindfulness exercises and breathing can help young people centre themselves and feel a sense of calm.
9 -Make it fun
Put some fun things in the diary to do during lockdown such as movie night, virtual parties, exercising together or special meals. Find something that makes all of the family laugh together.You might enjoy our quiz on Saturday 27th February 2021 hosted by the hilarious Sally Phillips
10 -Look after you!
Finally, look after yourself. Remember that when you are supporting others it is even more important to look after yourself. As the saying goes, put on your own oxygen mask first.
For more support feel free to pop over to our Forum to chat to other parents facing similar lockdown challenges.