Quaranteened: Helping teenagers cope with lockdown
Being a teenager is a long, slow process of growing away from your family. Yet young people are suddenly being thrust back into the heart of their families, whether they want to be.
Social distancing and self-isolation bring challenges for everyone. But teens face a particularly hard time. With schools closed, they’re going to be cut off from the people they care most about – their friends. The initial euphoria about dodging exams will be replaced by the realisation of all the things they’re missing – the summer term, the sporting events, the performances, the parties, the gatherings, the end-of-exams fun, the flirtations. On top of all that, they’re going to be forced to spend their entire time with their parents. At a time when they want more control over their lives, they’ve suddenly got less. So how can you help?
You’ll need some routine if you’re not going to drive each other mad. Talk to teens about the need to find new ways to arrange your days. What do they need to do (learning, exercise, friends-time, down-time) and what do you need to do to make that possible? More structure should, hopefully, mean less boredom. There’s going to be much more focus on home. Get them to help with the practical things – the chores and cooking, keeping an eye on younger siblings, cleaning surfaces. Create an atmosphere of ‘all in it together’ which will help them take responsibility. At the same time, encourage them to socialise. Screen-time rules may have to be relaxed. It’s vital for them to keep in touch with their friends, so suggest they investigate one of the many video-calling apps or that they play games together.
No doubt they’ll be relying on digital tech more than ever before. This is fine - but you should still emphasise the need to get enough sleep, to learn new things, to respond to anything their teachers suggest, to be physically active, and to have face-to-face time with the family. Accept that there will be times when they want to get away into their private space and try to make that possible. Talk to them about the virus – which should help them get perspective, and will also help them behave responsibly, even though they feel frustrated.
At the moment no one should be leaving their home other than for a little exercise, but volunteering is being encouraged – and they might want to help others who are still self-isolating. Young people are generally less likely to be affected by the virus (though they certainly shouldn’t be complacent: what they do will affect others), so they’re well placed to be volunteers, for example delivering food and prescriptions to people locally.