for better mental health

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 (Cymraeg).

Supporting your teen's wellbeing during coronavirus

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

This page offers information and advice on how to talk to your teen about coronavirus, how to support their wellbeing, and where 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 few months, lots of parents and guardians have been juggling work and family life with little or no support.

Caring for others might 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 talk to my teen about coronavirus?

Your teen may have heard different things about coronavirus from various places. 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 coronavirus:

You could:

  • Find a method of communication that feels right for both of you. This may be a face-to-face conversation, talking while doing an activity together, or writing texts or letters.
  • Let them lead the conversation. They will know what they want to talk about and what they're not sure of.
  • Let them know they're your focus. For that moment, it can help if you're somewhere quiet and comfortable, and are unlikely to be disturbed by other people or your phone.

For example:

  • If you have more than one child, consider talking to them on their own so you can adapt the conversation to suit their needs.
  • By responding to their questions, you'll get an idea of how much or how little information they need.
  • Answer their questions as best you can, and if you don't know an answer you can say so, and offer to look it up together.

 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 OK 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 and partners, or be worried about what their future holds.

Ask them what they've heard about coronavirus and help them to understand if what they’ve heard is true or not.

Use facts from trustworthy sources, like the NHS and the UK government or Welsh government. 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.

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.

“I’ll type in a hashtag #year12 and read all the posts… 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 lots of information and tips about 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 you both.

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. 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 going for a walk in nature and 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.”

Learning something new can help us to feel good about ourselves. Encourage your teen by taking an interest in their hobbies. They may also appreciate the attention from you and enjoy sharing their new knowledge with you. 

Their lives have changed a lot over the past few months – 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. The next year might also feel very uncertain.

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.

If they're good with technology, they could help their family adjust to working and socialising from home.

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 outbreak will impact our day-to-day lives, but we do know that this won't last forever.

During this time, help your teen to focus on what they can control. For example, you could encourage them to find out from schools and colleges what changes they’ve made and what options there are for taking part in school life. 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 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 large role in the lives of many teens, and changes could be having a big impact on how they're feeling.

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

Your teen's teachers will be creating 'predicted grades' which they think will be an honest representation of what they would achieve. If they are unhappy or worried about this, you could encourage them to talk to their Exams Officer, School Counsellor or Chaplain. They may also be able to resit some of their exams later.

They may feel like their revision and studying has been for nothing, or be uninterested in studying at home. You can give them time to voice their thoughts, and remind them that this is still only temporary – their education or career will continue after quarantine ends.

If they are going into school, this can be a hard time for them. They may be separated from their friends, 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
  • read information from Young Mind’s on going back to school.

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

With university life likely to look different while social distancing is in place, many young people may feel unsure about going to uni, or decide to not go at all. 

Get in touch with individual universities to find out what to expect for the next academic year. You can also find advice on the Universities UK website or the Office for Students.

This is a time of greater uncertainty for your teen – their school or college may be closed, they may be attending a different school, their care may have been paused, there may be more or fewer people at home, and they will have new daily routines.

You can find further advice and support from the following:

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' Parent's 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 detained under the Mental Health Act.

These changes will affect children and adults, but we are still waiting for further guidance from the government on how these changes will be applied to young people.

In the meantime, you can read about the changes for adults here.

“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)

How can I support my teen with changes to other support?

If your teen has a Statement of Special Educational Needs (SEN), an Education Healthcare (EHC) plan, or receives social care support, you may have questions and worries about their support continuing.

Here's some information which may help:

If your council is struggling to provide support for people with Statements of SEN in Wales because of coronavirus, or EHC plans in England because of coronavirus, the government could change how the support is provided.

The change would mean that the council or health body providing the support set out in the plan has to try to get the support for your teen, but your teen doesn't have a right to it. 

This is called making 'reasonable endeavours' to provide the support. It might mean that your teen gets less support than normal or a different type of support. In Wales, there's also a possibility that the Government could make the decision to stop providing the support for your teen.

In England, this change is now in force. The change isn't currently in force in Wales.

The Government can also make other temporary changes which could affect your teen's support, including:

  • temporarily pausing your council's duty to review your teen's EHC plan or Statement of SEN
  • temporarily pausing a school's duty to admit your teen, even if the school is named in their EHC plan or Statement of SEN. 

These two changes are currently not in force. If they do come into force, they should be for the shortest time possible and reviewed regularly.

If you're not sure whether your teen will be affected by these changes, you could:

  • check your council's website for updates
  • speak to your teen's school or college SENCO (Special Educational Needs Coordinator)
  • read the UK Government's information and call the dedicated helpline on 0800 046 8687 if you have questions around coronavirus and education. Or, if you're in Wales, read the Welsh Government's information
  • check The Council for Disabled Children's website – they have a list of resources which may help.

A new law, called the Coronavirus Act 2020, had made some changes to the way adult social care is provided. For more information on the changes, you may find it helpful to read our page on coronavirus and social care rights.

Your council's responsibilities to provide young people's social care are generally not affected by the changes. However, if your teen receives social care support, you might find that it is provided in a different way. For example, their social worker might call or video call rather than visit them in person.

In England, changes have been made which may affect young people moving from child to adult social care, including young carers. The council should still try to do the following, although they no longer have a duty to:

  • Carry out an assessment of your teen's likely care and support needs after turning 18. This is sometimes called a transition assessment.
  • Continue to provide the support your teen was receiving from children's services until they start receiving support from adult social services, even after your teen has turned 18.

If you're not sure whether your teen will be affected by these changes, you could check the Council for Disabled Children's website – they have a list of resources which may help.

If home isn't safe

If you are living, or think you are living, with someone who is abusing yourself, 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.

This information was last updated on 28 July 2020. 

  • The content reflects the best advice we have at this time. We will update it as necessary, particularly if there are changes to public health guidance.
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