Children’s charity Barnardo’s Cymru knows a thing or two about teenagers and with the news that the lockdown has been extended for at least another three weeks it is offering some useful online advice for parents.
Sarah Crawley, director for Barnardo’s Cymru, said: “If you’re struggling to keep your teenager in the house and sticking to lockdown rules know that you’re definitely not alone.”
Teenage brains work differently to adult brains. Developing independence and freedom is one of the central parts of being a teenager, they are much more focused on living for today, having fun, risk taking, testing boundaries and exploring their identity than they are following rules – and this explains why they might find lockdown so hard.
Children and young people have told the charity the reasons why they are struggling with lockdown include: missing social contact; peer support; getting away from family arguments; too much focus on school work and feeling scared, threatened, anxious and stressed.
As well as identifying the struggles and what doesn’t help, the online support includes advice on how parents and carers can support teenagers,. It also provides information of other organisations that can offer more support.
Sarah said: “Each child is an individual and it’s important that you listen to the things they are struggling with the most and adapt things within the home as best you can, to help them manage their responses.
“Most importantly, please remember that you are not failing as a parent and it doesn’t mean your child is failing either. This is a difficult time for everyone, and there will be many other parents finding it difficult. Remember, it’s not going to last forever and we will get through this.”
Things that don’t help:
Threatening to call the police – this makes teenagers feel like you don’t care about how they are feeling and how hard it is for them
Claiming they will get fines/arrested – threats can increase their already high anxiety levels
Saying the neighbours will get angry – this makes teenagers feel alienated in their own homes
Threatening or taking their phones and tablets/laptops/games away – this may be their main coping strategy and way of connecting, and will increase their feelings of isolation
Things that may help:
Check in regularly to see how they are doing – Intervening early is important. When the situation and relationship gets to a certain level of stress, it can be much harder to decompress.
Go for a walk together – Getting outside of the house together is a good way to get them active, as well as connecting with them, or just being quiet together
Help them keep in touch –Help them to organise, closed social media groups for those people teenagers are closest to.
Stay calm when talking about COVID-19 – Explain the dangers calmly and without sensationalising it. Remind them that there are trustworthy news sources and not to spend too much time researching.
Give them space – Make sure your child gets some confidential private space when they’re at home, as well as time away from siblings or elderly family members.
Have something to look forward to – Plan something big, like a party, celebration, day out or weekend away at the end of all of this.
Try not to over rely on them – While everyone has their jobs within the family, try not to over rely on them occupying younger siblings, for example. And if they do agree to help with them, acknowledge and reward their efforts.
Try and stick to some kind of routine – Trying to maintain a normal sleep, food, exercise, school work, free time and family time routine will help things not feel so chaotic.
Increase your child’s trusted circle – Meaning, make sure they still have contact with extended family or other important people in their lives.
Make sure they know support lines they can use to talk to someone – For example, Childline offers counselling services.
Help them develop different coping strategies – home exercise, cooking, relaxation techniques.
Keep connected – Catching up and staying connected with friend apps such as Houseparty, Facetime, Zoom and Online games can be great, but also make sure to talk to teenagers about their safety online. Let them know that they can talk to you if they are worried about anything online.
You can visit the charity’s Coronavirus Advice Hub for more ideas of how to cope with teenagers at https://www.barnardos.org.uk/blog/how-help-your-teenager-staying-home-during-lockdown. It also has articles and links for both adults and young people dealing with mental health, family activities, wellbeing and more.