Life in lockdown, and social distancing, can be difficult for us all – trying to fit in a routine of working at home and balancing this new life can be tough. For teenagers, the pandemic is hitting an important time in their lives. With schooling taking place remotely, and school events, parties and days out with friends still far in the horizon, teenagers will be experiencing a lot of emotions which may be difficult to process.

Below are tips to help guide conversations about talking to teenagers about staying at home and how they are feeling.

Talking to your teenagers with compassion

The losses that many teenagers face at the moment are significant. They are at a time when their push for independence and the importance of friendship is being challenged by being stuck at home with their parents more than usual.

Whether it is the loss of ordinary moments with their friends, confusion around changes at school, or the cancellation of events that used to be something to look forward to, their expectations have been turned upside down.

Acknowledging the impact of these losses, and opportunities that they won’t get back, with compassion is important.

The ups and the downs of teenage emotion

Sadness, anger, frustration and disappointment are all normal responses to the significant upheavals in a teen’s life. It can help them to hear that you understand this, and acknowledge how painful it is.

Be aware that they are likely also to express other feelings as well. They may react negatively one moment and switch to elation and relief in the next as responsibilities, worries about grades, and freedom from interactions with peers, or teachers they found hard, all contribute to feeling freer.

Battles with your teenager over Social Distancing

Many teens will think that being in a lockdown means that they can spend time with friends. They may tell parents that everyone else’s parents are letting their teens meet up with friends. For teenagers, their friends are an important part of how they make sense of their experiences and work out who they are, so being cut off from them will be very hard. Acknowledging this, at the same time as holding onto the guidance from health experts about needing to maintain social distance or to socially isolate will be important. Try to work with them to establish other ways in which they can remain connected to their friends in their spare time.

Give your teenagers privacy and space to be alone

You may be pleased to have your children at home more, but it is important to give them space and understand that they might not feel the same way. Let them know you enjoy their company while not insisting that they join in at all times.

It might be important to relax rules on screen-time or access to phones, as well as making sure that at home they can have a private space within which to be in touch with friends.

Maintaining your teenager's routines at home

Even though your teenager goes to school, a lockdown can lead to routines and good habits getting out of sync. Maintaining some face-to-face time with the family is also an important way in which teens can switch off from the social up’s and down’s and when you can check in with them.

Take advantage of your teenager’s creativity and understand their moods

Teenagers can be creative in their approach to problems and in adapting to new situations. They will far better if they can come up with their solutions to things rather than having something imposed on them.

If they need to manage their time - for example, if they have been sent in self-isolation - ask them to let you know how they will do it, and work with them to make a plan for their days. Being able to make decisions for themselves, within reason, can support them to carry their responsibilities and to learn from their own mistakes.

Being available to listen and support when things don’t go as planned will also stand them in good stead for approaching their feelings with compassion and reflection.

However at this difficult time when households are experiencing big changes and struggling to adjust to new circumstances, and when tempers might get frayed, it is also helpful to let teenagers know when their expressions of feeling are impacting on other family members!

Useful contact numbers:

For parents

Family Action. Providing support for adult members of families via telephone, text, email and webchat on their FAMILYLINE

Family Lives free and confidential helpline for parents in England & Wales How we can help

For parents in Scotland from Children 1st PARENTLINE

For parents in Northern Ireland PARENTLINE

For teens

Young Minds

Anna Freud Centre resource for young people ON MY MIND