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Helping stressed parents through the school shutdown

22 March 2020

As paraplanning parents potentially not only have to work from home but also cope with enforced school closures, we asked mental health expert, therapist and parent coach, Alicia Drummond for tips on managing home life with teenagers in these unusual times.

At this very worrying time, parents may be feeling anxious about schools and colleges closing. In addition, isolation from the peer group is likely to be difficult for teenagers and parents should be particularly vigilant around those who might be vulnerable to mental health problems.

Here’s my advice on supporting your teen:

  • Cognitive restructuring during adolescence leads many teens to think they are omnipotent and unlikely to be affected by the Coronavirus. It is therefore particularly important to ensure they understand why guidelines need to be followed e.g. the risk of spreading infection to elderly relatives who may be more likely to develop serious symptoms.
  • Anxious teenagers will need you to be calm and considered when discussing the virus – explain that precautionary procedures exist to delay the spread of the disease which will help the health service cope. It does not have a high death toll relative to other diseases but it is being carefully managed because of the potential impact on people’s jobs and livelihoods.
  • Protect grandparents from the virus by forming a childcare pod with other families.  This prevents teenagers becoming isolated.  Keep it as a closed group so that if anyone becomes ill the spread of infection is limited.
  • This is not a bonus holiday it is still term time so create a structured timetable for the day which includes time for learning, creating and exercise.
  • Some schools will live stream lessons and/or set work but if your school doesn’t the IXL site has lessons for all ages and you can share the cost of a membership across your parent pod.
  • Right now technology is your friend – encourage them to develop a new skill – learn piano on the Magic Piano app; coding with Raspberry Pi; try a new language with Duolingo;  digital art on Medibang or introduce them to photography and make a pinhole camera. Spark creativity with the Dyson Foundation.
  • Involve them in household chores to encourage independence. Learning to cook is a great life skill and creates opportunities to chat in a relaxed way.
  • Get out the cards and board games – for once in our lives we might all have time to stop and play. Current favourites are Monopoly Deal, Dixit and Racing Demon for card lovers.
  • Being confined to home may be stressful for everyone – taking time out for a little mindful meditation will help everyone stay calm – Calm or Headspace are good apps.
  • Allow time for social media and gaming which helps them stay connected with friends but have a screen contract in place to prevent overuse.

I hope these tips and advice help you through this challenging time.

Alicia is founder of Teen Tips and is running some Online Talks for parents and teens in the coming weeks to help everyone during this very challenging time. You can find details here.

Alicia works with over a hundred schools delivering talks and workshops to help parents, staff and pupils deepen their understanding of adolescence and promote emotional health and wellbeing.

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