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Supporting your teen's wellbeing during coronavirus

Information for parents and carers of young people aged 11-18 who are worried about their child's wellbeing, and want to know how to support them.

This page is also available in Welsh.

Supporting your teen's wellbeing during coronavirus

You might be feeling worried about your child’s wellbeing or mental health during the coronavirus pandemic, and want to know how to help.

This page has tips on how to support your teen's wellbeing, including advice on ways to get help. For information on how to look after your own wellbeing, visit our coronavirus information hub.

We're here to support you and your family through this time.

This page has information on the following:

Looking after your own wellbeing

Over the past year, you may have been juggling work and family life with little or no support.

As a result, you might be feeling low, worried, pessimistic, angry, or even apathetic about the pandemic. Our page on difficult feelings about the coronavirus pandemic has more on what you may be feeling.

Caring for others might also mean you don’t feel like you have much time to look after your own wellbeing. But it’s even more important to take care of yourself when you’re supporting others.

For information on how to look after your own wellbeing, visit our coronavirus information hub.

How do I explain changes to lockdown?

Your teen may have heard different things about vaccinations, or if you live in England, changes to lockdown. They might feel positive about what they've heard, or they might feel worried or confused about what’s happening.

It’s important to recognise how they're feeling, provide reassurance, and separate fact from fiction.

Here are some tips for talking to them about lockdown:

 When you talk, try to:

  • Listen to their worries and take them seriously – what they're thinking and feeling is important, and should be respected.
  • Let them know that it’s okay to feel worried, scared or angry. Tell them that sometimes you feel worried too, and that a certain amount worry is normal.
  • Acknowledge if their worries are very unlikely – not by saying 'it's fine', but with facts.
  • Recognise this is a tough time for young people. They may miss their friends, boyfriends and girlfriends, or be worried about what their future holds.

Ask them what they've heard about the vaccine or lockdown rules changing, and help them to understand if what they’ve heard is true or not.

Use facts from trustworthy sources, like the NHS or the government. You can visit these pages for the latest government guidance:

Or you could offer to watch an unbiased news source together, such as BBC News. This will help to challenge any incorrect information they may have heard. 

If you're worried about how much news they are seeing or where they are getting information from, encourage them to limit their intake by only checking at a certain time of the day or consider avoiding certain sites that aren’t helpful.

You can help your young person understand what possible changes to lockdown might mean for them and their lives. If you’re in England, you can use the government’s 'roadmap' to talk through these changes.  

Planning could include how and when they can see their friends, how they can go back to school or college, or when they can go to different places outside or indoors.  

You could also help them to understand that while the government is planning for the future, things still might change. For example, if there is a rise in infection rates or new variants of the virus are found.

They may not understand, or want to understand, that future plans aren’t set in stone. But talking to them about it may help help them to cope if plans do change in the coming months.

Reminding them of your love and support will help them feel safe, and know they have someone to come back to if they want to talk more.

How can I help my teen stay safe online?

Most of us are spending more time online at the minute.

If you're worried about your teen staying safe online, here’s some things to consider:

Encouraging your teen to balance the amount of time they spend on their phone with other activities can be challenging, especially when they are spending a lot of time at home.

Setting rules around your own screen time, such as thinking about how often you check the news or social media, could help you to promote healthy boundaries.

Try to involve your teen in discussions around screen time. For example, you could ask them how they feel increased screen time may affect their wellbeing.

Social media can help your teen to stay in touch with friends or partners, but it might also make them feel anxious, worried or upset.

If social media is making them feel like this, you could suggest that they take a break or limit their social media use.

You could also suggest they change what they look at. For example, they might decide to view particular groups or pages but not scroll through timelines or newsfeeds.

“It makes me feel relieved to see that other people are going through the same thing.”

We know it can be difficult to talk about online safety with your teen.

The NSPCC has information on talking to young people about online safety, to support you in conversations with your teen.

How can I support my teen's wellbeing?

Your teen might be feeling a mixture of emotions about coronavirus and the current situation, and this can be really worrying and stressful for both of you.

We're living through a period of change and uncertainty, so it's natural to feel upset or unsure about what you should do.

You're not alone and there are lots of things you can try to support your teen:

Your teen might be feeling a mixture of emotions right now. Our page on managing feelings about changes to lockdown has more on what they may be feeling.

However they're feeling, it's important to acknowledge their thoughts and emotions.

You could try to: 

  • Suggest mindfulness or journaling as a way for them to process their thoughts.
  • Help them to manage their worries by having time set aside each day for ‘worry time’, where they can talk to you about how they are feeling.
  • Ask them what advice they would give to a friend who was feeling worried.
  • If they are feeling anxious, encourage them to try simple breathing techniques, such as breathing in for a count of four and breathing out for a count of seven.
  • Share what helps you when you feel anxious or stressed, for example doing some exercise or going for a walk in nature. Encourage them to see if this helps them to manage their feelings.
  • Focus on things they can control, like choosing how they spend their free time, and following guidelines to help others.
  • Remind them that events like this don't happen often, and it won't be forever.

They are probably missing seeing friends, partners and family members they haven’t seen in a while.

Encourage your teen to virtually connect with their friends, partners and family. You could also try to be more lenient with their mobile phone and social media use if it's helping them feel connected.

“The lockdown is the biggest problem because I rely on being able to see the people I love as a coping mechanism for my anxiety and depression.”

Their lives have changed a lot over the past year – exams have been cancelled, they've been apart from their friends and family, and they may feel unsafe at the prospect of catching the coronavirus.

It may help to:

  • Encourage them to do what they can to look after themselves and other people.
  • Look at mindfulness or journaling as a way for them to process their thoughts.
  • Include them when talking about looking after older relatives and shopping for essentials – such as what can and can't be bought, and if they can help.
  • Encourage them to find ways to exercise safely, either on their own or as a family, for both their physical and mental wellbeing.

During this time, you could encourage your teen to think about how they want to contribute to home life or wider society.

There are also lots of volunteering opportunities that your teen could take part in, such as virtual befriending or volunteering at a food bank. You can find your nearest food bank on the Trussell Trust's website.

Spending more time at home might make your teen feel like they've lost their independence, and this will be difficult for them.

Try to find ways to spend time together without always being on top of each other. For example, you could sit together while you're both doing different activities.

You should respect their need to spend time on their own, too.

We don't know how long the coronavirus pandemic will impact our day-to-day lives, but we do know that this won't last forever.

Help your teen to focus on what they can control. For example, you could encourage them to make plans for the weekends and life after lockdown. Knowing what to expect may help them to worry less.

Planning some fun activities together will also help them have something to look forward to.

Sadly, during this time your teen could experience the death of someone they know. This may be because of coronavirus or it may be unrelated.

The outbreak of coronavirus also means that there are some restrictions around the usual ways we grieve. For example, it may not be possible for them to attend the funeral in person.

For more information on supporting your teen with grief and bereavement, visit The Irish Hospice Foundation and Hope Again websites.

Some young people may have caring responsibilities for adults, brothers or sisters, or other family members. They may feel anxious about what will happen if the person they care for becomes unwell, or if they become unwell and need to self-isolate.

To help manage their anxiety, it's a good idea to help them make a plan for what will happen if the person they care for becomes unwell, or if you become unwell. The plan could include the contact details of individuals and organisations that can offer support to your teen, such as Carers UK and YACbook.

You could also let your teen know about our coronavirus content hub for young people. This includes information on coronavirus and wellbeing, managing feelings about changes to lockdown, plus lots of tips from other young people.

Help with negative coping strategies

Drugs and alcohol – Teens may be tempted to manage their feelings by taking drugs and alcohol. Supporting your teen to manage their feelings in other positive ways can be helpful. If you're worried about drugs and alcohol, YoungMind’s have a guide for parents, including advice on where to get help.

Self-harm – Some teens use self-harm as a way to manage difficult emotions. Self-harm can feel like a difficult subject to talk about, but it’s not uncommon. And with time and the right support, young people can learn other ways to cope. If you think your teen is self-harming, YoungMind’s have a guide for parents that you may find helpful.

Help for eating problems – Some young people, as well as some adults, may over or under eat as a way to manage their feelings. If you would like advice on supporting your teen with an eating problem, read YoungMind's guide.

How can I support my teen with changes to school or college?

School or college play a big role in the lives of many teens, and changes could be having a significant impact on how they're feeling.

Here's some guidance on how to support your teen through the different worries these changes can bring:

If your teen is going into school, this could be a hard time for them. They may need to take regular coronavirus tests, wear masks frequently, follow modified timetables, and probably feel like it's very unfair.

In this situation you could:

  • Ask them how they feel about going into school, and if there's anything you can do together to make the situation better for them.
  • Listen to how they're feeling and don't dismiss them.
  • Share our information about managing feelings about lockdown changing with your teen.

“I’m worried about going back to school. I don’t want to go back. I’m having panic attacks.”

As most exam results will now be replaced by teachers’ predicted grades in 2021, your teen may be feeling upset or frustrated – especially if they were also affected by exam cancellations last year.  

Your teen may feel like their revision and studying has been for nothing, or be uninterested in studying further 

You can help them by giving them space to voice their feelings. You could also remind them that this is still only temporary – their education or career will continue after lockdown ends.

This is a time of greater uncertainty for your teen – their school or college may reopen, their care may have been paused, there may be fewer people at home, and their daily routines may need to change again.

You can find further advice and support from the following:

Your teen may need to study from home for a period of time. For example, if there's a national lockdown, or if a classmate has a suspected or confirmed case of coronavirus.

This can be difficult for them, especially if they’re away from their friends again, or struggle to concentrate or feel motivated at home.

You can find guidance for yourself and your teen from the UK Government and Welsh Government websites. You could also find support from sites such as BBC Bitesize or Twinkl.

Accessing support and treatment for my teen’s mental health

If your teen starts showing behaviours that are worrying for you, it’s important to seek help.

You may be unsure about what types of treatment and support are available at the moment, and how they may have changed

It's important to know that help is still out there.

My teen's mental health is in crisis

If your teen has a mental health support worker, or has been given another crisis contact number, contact them. Follow your teen's crisis care plan, if they have one.

Let your teen know they can ring HOPELINEUK or text YoungMind's Crisis Messenger service and a counsellor will talk things through with them. 

If your teen is hurt, or you feel they're an immediate danger to themselves or others, this is an emergency and you should call 999.

If your teen starts showing behaviours that are worrying for you, they may need support that they didn't before.

You can discuss this with your teen, and you can ask their current mental health team or their GP if they can access counselling or other support.

For teens who may need support in seeking help for the first time, you can show them our information on finding support.

You can contact the service and tell them about your concerns, and ask how your teen can access appointments in a different format, such as over the phone or online.

If their mental health support cannot continue, or you cannot contact the service, you can try:

  • contacting their GP and asking for advice
  • contacting YoungMinds' Parents Helpline for advice or fill in their online email form – please note, due to call demand there may be a waiting time before you are connected
  • talking to your teen about how you can create a temporary support plan together at home.

You can look into ordering your teen's repeat prescription online, by app, or over the phone – either through their GP surgery or directly from a registered pharmacist.

If you need to limit their interactions outside, or they need to self-isolate, you could talk to their pharmacist about home deliveries, or arrange to collect it for them.

There have been changes to some of the protections for people sectioned under the Mental Health Act in WalesMost of these changes are not being used at the moment.

You can read about the changes for adults on our coronavirus and sectioning page. You can also read our information for young people on being sectioned.

“It is a myth that services have closed down and help is not available during the pandemic. We are very open and keen to reach out to people who need our help.”
-Dr Kate Lovett (Psychiatrist working during coronavirus)

If home isn't safe

If you are living, or think you are living, with someone who is abusing you, your teen or anyone else in your home, please make yourselves as safe as possible.

Here's some information which can help:

  • Women's Aid provides safety advice for abuse survivors and young people during coronavirus, as does Refuge, including if you're not sure if you're being abused.
  • Survivors UK has a helpline for all male-identifying abuse survivors of any age via text, Whatsapp, or online messaging.
  • The freephone, 24-hour National Domestic Abuse Helpline is 0808 2000 247 for all concerns.
  • Your teen can also contact these charities for support at any time, as well as The Hideout, which is for young people directly.

If you or your teen are at immediate risk, you should call 999
. If you are concerned that your teen may be at risk, you can speak to your council's safeguarding team.

Where else can I get further help and support?

See our page of useful contacts for a list of services and organisations which may help you to support your teen.

Our coronavirus information hub also has a range of resources for adults, to support your wellbeing during this time.

This information was last updated on 4 March 2021.

References are available on request. If you would like to reproduce any of this information, see our page on permissions and licensing.

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