Supporting teens anxious about Coronavirus
This is a guest post from children’s therapist and wellbeing author Becky Goddard-Hill. Becky’s book, co-written with Penny Alexander is called Be Happy Be You – a teenage guide to happiness and it was published by Harper Collins earlier this year.
When it comes to younger kids we can totally control how we pass over information in regard to Covid-19. We can be sure not to scare them or to overwhelm and we can give them bite sized, digestible pieces of news that they can cope with. Then we can tell them what they can best do to keep safe.
They will still feel anxious and find social distancing and masking wearing tricky but they will usually trust in our reassurances .
But it is different with teens.
How we can support our teens who can read the news and can see what’s going on? They know cases are rising exponentially, they know a vaccine is not imminent and day in day out they are hearing how bad things ou are and how more changes are being made.
How do we support them?
And how do we do that when we are anxious ourselves? It can be so hard to know where to start.
Here are 5 ways in which you can best support your teen through these times.
Be their guide
Teens look to you for guidance. You may feel they have ditched you for you their friends but they still look to you, their parent, to lead the way. So carry on with exercise, socialising (even if it’s via zoom) carry on eating well, watching great movies and talking about other things. Show your kids life goes on and that you can be robust and resilient in the face of this.
Role model coping.
Feelings are contagious
Feelings are contagious and if you show your teen how nervous and anxious you feel they will pick up on this and their feelings will intensify (save your offloading for your partner or your best friend).
This doesn’t mean you have to be dishonest you can say ‘yes it make me nervous too but I also feel reassured it won’t last forever.’ Show them positive feelings, optimism and a can do attitude – these are the feelings you want them to catch – not your anxiety and overwhelm.
If you show them you are calm and stoic they can take their lead form you.
You do also want your kids to TALK to you about how they feel so it doesn’t get all bottled up inside them and leak out in unhealthy behaviours. They are more like ly to talk to you if y they feel you are strong and coping rather than upset and stressed.
Teens live a lot of their life online which means that they have access to the news pretty much constantly. It is not healthy to listen to scary news 24/7 or discuss the same issue with your (sometimes misinformed) friends again and again.
Talk about this with them and suggest as a family a couple of hours designated time each evening where you have no phones and that at night they are kept downstairs. This will not be easy but your chances of success are MUCH higher if you fill that time with fun family things, a favourite meal or a movie and …wait for it..if you do this too.
Yes, back to role modelling.
Our brains need a break from worrying and information overload just as much as our teens do.
A word about conspiracy theories
A wealth of conspiracy theories have sprung up around Coronavirus and it is important to check in with your teen to make sure they haven’t fallen down this rabbit hole of fear-inducing nonsense. Ask them what news they read and guide them towards sensible and measured options.
Bring some joy in
It can be very difficult to feel happy when the news is so scary and our lives are so impacted but in times like these it is more important than ever that teens get their dopamine hits.
Bike rides, a great comedy, looking at old photos, doing a good deed for an older family member, baking, having a gorgeous long bath and a pamper, these things can all raise a smile. Up the TLC and help your teen them keep joy in their life by planning in one thing each day with them guaranteed to make them happy.
We will come through this and with you, strong and positive; by the side your teen will be okay
Be Happy Be You is a great resource for teens, packed with advice and guide on a range of topics related to their life. This makes a wonderful gift as it empowers them to look after their emotional wellbeing and think clearly about the choices they make.