COVID19 | Advice for Parents

by Hollie Smith 

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Advice for Parents

“The coronapocalypse has been devastating for adults, but its impact on teenagers is arguably far greater”, reads the opening line of a recent American article, written by a father struggling to help his teenage daughter during such uncertain times. As a 19 year old, I couldn’t agree more. This past month I have not only had my own university exams cancelled and been forced to take a step back from my education and routine, but have watched first hand as my younger sister’s A Level exams got cancelled and attempted to console her during times of confusion and, mainly, frustration. I couldn’t help but think, throughout the past month, how lucky I am to have dodged this horrible feeling by merely one school year.

It is completely understandable that, since your teen has no idea what to do and what they’re supposed to feel, that you are just as confused, and i can’t promise to have all the answers – however – I have researched and compiled some tips and helpful resources to provide some guidance on adjusting to the new normal, sincerely from a young person’s point of view.

Online learning isn’t as simple as it looks.

Zoom chats and webinars may look productive, however they cater for a very small percentage of children’s learning abilities and preferences. For a visual learner, a webinar is great but for a kinaesthetic learner, they’re pointless and boring. Children learn through debating, discussing and most importantly: getting things wrong. Support your teenager with their work and encourage alternative approaches. Be patient and present; allow room for mistakes.

Understand, and justify, their anxieties.

Our teens are upset, anxious, scared, but also nostalgic… for last month. Life changed so quickly and as adults, adapting to ‘the new normal’ is a lot easier when status, peer groups, hormonal changes and social dynamics don’t matter. To our teenagers, much to our obliviousness, this is their everything. Their entire routine was built around the foundations of socialising, and ritual walks-to-class. All of this has been stripped away and it will take time to adjust and get used to. American psychologist, and National Director of Education at the Newport Academy in California, a mental health treatment centre for teens and young adults, Ryan Fedoroff advises compassion and to “truly listen to your child when they speak about their worries and the fact that they are upset…It’s important to validate their feelings.” And though your support is invaluable to them (even if they may not show it straight away), she emphasises the importance of “not trying to solve their problems. Instead, show compassion, validate, and be present.”

https://mindedforfamilies.org.uk/young-people is a great website with resources to support you as a parent, approaching conversations with your teenager about their feelings, especially teenagers with diagnosed conditions which may make these conversations more complex.

Adjust with them.

Your teenager will be watching you, subconsciously, for psychological cues. If you are constantly worried and in a state of high alert at all times, this will affect your child. Its understandable that you are scared too, and especially anxious to keep your child(ren) safe during this turbulent time, and we all need to let it out, but maybe do this in a space away from your teen. Personally, if my parents are getting worked up with worries about the pandemic and life right now, this will trigger a fear inside me and elevate my anxiety.

Consider routine but don’t over-enforce.

Structure is, of course, vital in a teen’s life, but give your teen the freedom to create a routine of their own, and only step in to amend when essential elements need changing (eg: unhealthy sleeping/eating patterns). I found that once I had come to terms with the fact I was stuck inside the house, with Zoom pinging every 2 hours and assignments I was no longer interested in sitting untouched on my desk, I took matters into my own hands and created a routine that eased me into life again, at my own pace. I allowed myself to sleep until 9 each morning, had a healthy breakfast and ensured I was taking care of myself. I feel that 15 year old me would have done the same, but less likely if I’d had someone nagging me to do it each day.

To conclude, it’s imperative to remember that the new normal won’t be permanent and its something you’ll talk about for the rest of your lives. The maths paper they didn’t complete, or the Joe Wicks workout they missed because they slept in isn’t what you’ll remember. This opportunity to enjoy your company and learn about each other is one that no generation has had before.

With credit to:

Christopher Null: https://www.wired.com/story/covid-19-is-hitting-teens-especially-hard/

Ryan Federoff: https://www.newportacademy.com/meet-the-team/ryan-fedoroff/

©Hollie Smith 2020. All rights reserved. Written for Footsteps Youth Wellbeing.

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