Where are we right now? An overview of what is happening for our teenagers.
The past few weeks have been interesting, and varied for our teens. Some are getting back into the routine of school after the Easter break, others are facing exams which they maybe weren’t prepared for and looking towards leaving school much earlier than planned at the end of May.
For some, they have taken it in their stride, got on with it and focused on what they need to do to get through. This ‘coping ability’ has been helped by them being able to see friends more regularly face to face, the reconvening of out of school activities and, let’s face it, better weather.
But we are not out of the woods yet. Many young people are still really struggling with the impact this past 15 months has had on them, and their lives. When I speak to the teens I am supporting many are still struggling with high levels of anxiety and not really being sure about ‘what comes next’. So much has changed without warning in this past year there is an air of distrust that it won’t happen again.
This ‘waiting for something to go wrong’ is not helping our teens mental health and is reducing their capacity to deal with the stress of being back at school and all the challenges that this brings, not just school work but also navigating friendships, and being consciously made aware of who they are ‘allowed’ to interact with and what they can and can’t do, beyond the normal school rules.
So, what can we as parents and carers do to help this adjustment back and reduce the impact of these stressful times?
Focus on Fun
First and foremost….give more emphasis to the external activities outside of school. More than ever teens need to be helped to get back out and doing what they enjoy and being with the people they want to be around. They have experienced so many lost opportunities this past year and they may need some help getting back on top of planning and finding activities which allow them to have fun again. Don’t be surprised if your previously proactive teen is not so forward thinking or planning as before, it’s been tough to maintain that when everything keeps getting cancelled. They may need some support and encouragement to get back on the track of ‘doing’ rather than just ‘being’ in their rooms.
Remind them what they have accomplished
Remember there is no ‘catching up’ required. This time has been incredibly damaging to our young people who have faced the most disruption and expected to just get on with it, and still achieve. They are not behind; they did the best they could in incredibly difficult circumstances. I think back to the early days of the first lockdown and remember how my motivation and ability to get anything done was greatly reduced. Our teens were not immune to this either. Celebrate the small wins, help them see what they have achieved rather than what they haven’t and keep reminding them how amazing they are, they need to hear it.
Build a network
Build a support network back up around your teen. This is not only you, but other adults or even older young people who they have a connection with and you know that would choose to spend time with and maybe talk to. Teens often find it hard to be open with their parents about difficult stuff. This is never a reflection on our ability as parents, but part of their growing independence and exploring life for themselves. Knowing that there are other adults in their world that they can offload to if needed can often be invaluable in helping them to process, and understand how they are feeling.
Remember this is new territory for all of us, and we are all finding our feet as we re-emerge into whatever the world may look like over the coming months. Everyone has been impacted by this pandemic, but our teens in particular have been exposed to, and had to navigate more adult concepts and situations more than ever which has propelled them forward more than maybe they would have been pre-pandemic. Teens do care, but they do not have the same capacity and understanding to evaluate and process more challenging situations, even if they are more mature and seem to be coping.
We are all doing the best we can right now, parenting in a pandemic has tested us all, so looking after you too is vital on this journey.
I will be running my ‘Tools for Teens – Understanding the Teenage Brain’ online, self-paced programme again from the 12th – 16th July. If you’d like to find out more about this, watch the video below and click here for more information and to book.