I write this blog a month into the third lockdown. Schools are closed and are said to remain so until at least early March, children of all ages are having to adjust to learning remotely, attending lessons in the same way they would do at secondary, whilst parents try their absolute best to replicate an educational environment for primary age children with few resources, little training and other commitments, including paid employment.
We have another year of teenagers who are facing the cancelling of examinations, uncertainty whether they have done enough or what they will need to do to take the next step on their lives journey.
Young people who left school and bravely set off to university, leaving parents at home with no idea how they would fare in this climate. Then, facing being locked in their living spaces with people they did not know and for a life they did not sign up for.
The younger generation is also disproportionately furloughed, have lost jobs and cannot gain employment in a world of uncertainty and rising unemployment.
Limits on their Freedom and their Futures
And we have children who are being told, yet again that they can’t see their friends, they can’t socialise and that they need to stick to these rules to function within the decisions which are being made for us as a country.
Our young people have faced their education, social lives and futures disrupted, and been blamed for the ‘spread of this virus’
This group was already struggling with a host of mental health issues, high levels of anxiety, depression, stress related to managing lives and exams. Our NHS was and is continuing to be swamped with managing a host of chronic issues these young people were experiencing. And now they are being exposed and expected to rise up and take on the burdens of responsibility from following lockdown rules and shutting down their everyday lives in the same way us adults are without the brain capacity and perspective us adults have.
I want people to know that the fallout from this pandemic will not only be the deaths from the virus and the fears which have been instilled in the hearts of vulnerable people, afraid to leave their own homes. For them and their families this has been a tragic time, and my heart goes out to every single one of them.
The Voice for our Future Generation
I choose to provide a voice for the group of people I spend my days with who are grappling with this time which is supposed to be the best, most exciting albeit challenging years of their lives. Having spent years in education, this is the final step towards an increased freedom of choice, to live their lives and spread their wings.
Instead they are faced with uncertainty, blame and expectation that, yet again others control their lives, and now their freedom.
They are not going to come out of this unscathed, and neither will we. What they miss out on now will have an impact on years to come, not only on their educational development, but their social and emotional development too. Teens need their outlets, their freedom to explore the world and their capabilities and capacities to be independent and to learn to function away from their families.
These crucial years are when their brains need nurturing, supporting and understanding. They have immense capacity to learn new skills, consolidate their talents and set themselves up for a successful adulthood. But, if we do not help them understand the other side of their minds, how stress, anxiety and depression can manifest themselves, we will inevitably see the tragic symptoms of youth mental health issues, self-harm, eating disorders and suicide.
No-one wants to read this, at a time when we feel that our own mental health is hanging by a thread, but unless we stand up and take note, we are going to be faced with a bigger and longer lasting pandemic than the coronavirus ever presented us with.
What can we do as the protectors and carers of our Young People?
Let’s take care of our future generation, in whatever way we can, look after their minds so that they can learn to look after themselves. I want to reassure you that there are things which can be done, action which can be taken, not just as a reaction to a set of circumstances our young people may present with, but also as a preventative measure.
We need to start now, not wait for the numbers needing help to increase.
Understanding the brain of a growing adolescent can be fundamental to appreciating how their mind affects their mood, and behaviour and how we can use this understanding to help them at this difficult and challenging time, and in turn, help ourselves too.
Encouraging them, guiding them, maybe more than you would have expected to do. Our proactivity now with our young people, showing them their strengths, their uniqueness and how they can focus on a positive future is fundamental to supporting their brains and strengthening their minds.
If you would like to learn more and understand how understanding the teenage brain can really help support and guide this vulnerable generation then please take a look at the information on my upcoming ‘Tools for Teens’ online course, details in the link here.
We are truly in this together, lets rise up as a society and protect our young people, they are our future.