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 during the coronavirus outbreak, and want to know more about how to help look after their wellbeing and mental health.  

This page offers information and advice on how to talk to your teen and support different aspects of their wellbeing. For information on how to look after your own wellbeing, visit our coronavirus information hub.

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

This page has information on the following:

How to talk with my teen about coronavirus
How to support my teen's wellbeing
How to help my teen stay safe online
How to support my teen with changes to mental health treatment or support
How to support my teen with changes to other support 
How to support my teen with changes to school or college
How to support my teen if we're apart
Where else can I get further help and support?

How to talk to with my teen about coronavirus

It's important to let your teen lead the conversation – they may have already heard quite a lot about coronavirus from their friends or online, and they will know what they want to talk about or what they're not sure of.

Before you have talk with them, here are some things to think about:

What may seem like a good way to talk for you, may not work for your teen. You could:

  • Find a method of communication that feels right for both of you. This may be a face-to-face conversation, talking while both doing an activity together, or writing texts or letters.
  • Be prepared for what you want to say, or for what you think they might want to talk about.
  • 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 a while.

When you're both ready to talk, try to:

  • Be honest – explain why they're being asked to do something and how it will help. Don't shy away from the reality of the situation if you think it will help them understand what they're being asked to do.
  • Be patient – give them time to think things through and come back to ask you questions later. They may not know what to say immediately.
  • Take them seriously – what they're thinking and feeling is important, and should be respected.
  • Be supportive – this is a tough time for young people. They may miss their friends and partners, or be worried about what their future holds.

If you have more than one teen, talk to them on their own so you can adapt the conversation to suit their needs and preferences.

You'll get an idea of how much or how little information they need, and how much detail you need to go into without worrying them.

They may also have questions. For example, they may want to ask you about what the coronavirus is, how to follow the guidance on social distancing and washing hands, or check up on the safety of loved ones.

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.

There are also helpful resources on Makaton and social stories to explain coronavirus.

You could make sure your information comes from 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 break down any incorrect information or fake news picked up on social media.

Your teen might be experiencing a mixture of emotions. They may feel worried, sad, scared, angry or confused. They may also feel unsure or numb.

However they are feeling, it's important to acknowledge their emotions. Also take this time to:

  • Ask them what they've heard about coronavirus and needing to stay inside, and sort fact from fiction with them.
  • Find out their thoughts and worries, and work together to find ways for them to cope.
  • Reassure them if their worries are very unlikely, not by saying 'it's fine', but with facts.
  • Remind them that events like this don't happen often, and it won't be forever.

They may be picking up information from a mix of traditional news channels and websites, social media, or their friends.

Make sure they feel okay with how much they're seeing, and know what and who to trust. Constant news updates on TV and online can be overwhelming and scary, especially if they're not all from trustworthy sources, or voice extreme opinions.

Try not to force them to read more or less, or restrict their access to certain sites. If you're worried, you can ask if they think changing their habits would help, and discuss setting specific times to check media or have a day away from it.

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, or feel unwell.

How to support my teen's wellbeing

Your teen might be feeling a mixture of emotions about the outbreak of coronavirus, and this can be really worrying and stressful for 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:

Their lives have changed a lot over the past month – exams have been cancelled, they're away from their friends and partners, 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.

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.

Creating a new routine during this period of change could help your teen to feel more secure.

Where possible, your new routine could include activities from before the coronavirus outbreak. For example, eating a meal together, watching a TV show in the evening or going for a walk after dinner.

Staying 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.

If your teen goes to school or college, they're probably used to being around other young people several hours a day, and they might be finding it difficult to be removed from this.

During this time, encourage your teen to virtually connect with their friends. You could also try to be more lenient with their mobile phone and social media use.

If you have any concerns about your teen's mobile phone use, read our information on staying safe online.

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.

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.

Make sure you reassure your teen and encourage them to think about the future – having some activities planned for when this is over will give them something to look forward to.

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, Carers Trust and YACbook.

How to help my teen stay safe online

If you're worried about your teen staying safe online, here are 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.

You could also explore apps that support routine and productive activities, such as learning a new language.

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.

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

But, during this time, they may be using new apps with unfamiliar privacy and security settings, and they may be connecting with new people online.

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 to support my teen with changes to mental health treatment or support

It may be a very difficult time for your teen if they already have a mental health problem and their support is changing.

Here's some information which may help:

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 your teen was due to see, tell them about your concerns, and ask how your teen can access appointments in a different format, such as over the phone or online.

You can also discuss how their treatment will be affected if they develop coronavirus and must self-isolate.

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.

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 contact YoungMind's Crisis Messenger service by texting 'YM' to 85258, or Meic's confidential support service via phone, email, SMS text and instant messaging, at any time.

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.

How to 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 and email [email protected]
  • 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.

How to 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 your teen is missing their friends or their school environment, you could suggest ways for them to connect with others. For example, they could have online study sessions with their friends or email teachers for support.

You could also ask them if there's anything you can do to help them.

They may be sad at the idea of missing out on prom, leaver's day, or graduation. Try to acknowledge this sense of loss and find new ways for them to mark the missed milestone.

You could talk to them about the idea of these events just being postponed and rearranged for a later date. You could also suggest that they create a virtual yearbook for their classmates or host an online leavers' party at home.

If you need to stay in work or there is no one to look after your teen during the day, and they have been asked to stay in school, this can be a hard time for them. They will be separated from their friends, be in near-empty classrooms, follow modified timetables, and probably feel like it's very unfair. They might also be worried for your health at work.

In this situation you could:

  • listen to how they're feeling and don't dismiss them
  • tell them how you're looking after your health while at work, and when you get home
  • share any positives experiences you have at work
  • ask them how they feel being at school, and if there's anything you can do together to make the situation better for them.

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

They may also find it more difficult to understand why new rules must be followed, to communicate their feelings, or to say if they feel unwell. During this time, they'll need extra support, comfort and reassurance from you.

You can find further advice and support from the following:

  • The UK government and Welsh government have further information you can read on how to support your teen in these circumstances.
  • Mencap have an online hub for parents and carers of young people with learning difficulties and autism.
  • The National Autistic Society has tips for families during coronavirus, and an Autism Helpline on 0808 800 4104 for general advice.
  • If your teen has a Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCO) at their school or college, try contacting them, or your local authority, about how best to continue their support at home.

If you need help or advice on supporting your teen with studying at home, you could:

  • Speak to their school or college if you haven't heard from them, and ask about digital learning, or what technology your teen may need. They may be able to provide you with worksheets, and links to submit work online.
  • Look at free online resources they could use, such as from Twinkl, an online resource hub for study materials including KS3 (age 11-14), and the BBC's study content for ages 11-18. For older students, FutureLearn has free online courses on a range of subjects.
  • Use different resources – if no digital learning is available, encourage your teen to choose books or podcasts they'd like to explore during their time away from school or college, and think about any other ways to stay active or be creative.
  • Browse your local library's website for online activities or resources you can use.

Remember to add time in for breaks, lunch and exercise.

Aside from the traditional board games, movie nights and banana bread baking, here's some more ideas for spending time together with your teen:

  • The Scouts have a collection of activities that can be done indoors and in the garden.
  • Girlguiding also have an online resource hub of activities for families and young people to do inside.
  • The National Autistic Society have a variety of resources for families to do together.

How to support my teen if we're apart

Unfortunately, there might be times when you are apart from your teen during the coronavirus outbreak. During these times, try to find ways to stay connected. This could be by telephone or video calls.

Here's some information which might help:

The current government guidance says that where parents do not live in the same household, children under 18 can move between their parents' homes.

CAFCASS has some information on how to make co-parenting and child arrangements work during the coronavirus outbreak.

If you live in a single parent or carer household, it's a good idea to plan with your teen what will happen if you become unwell and need to self-isolate. Likewise, if you live with a partner and you both become unwell, your teen may need to take over caring responsibilities.

In your plan you could include the details for other people or organisations that can help out if you become unwell. For example, friends, family or neighbours could help deliver food or medicine.

Planning ahead could really help to reduce your teen's anxiety. 

If your teen is in an inpatient mental health unit, you may feel worried about how you will see them or talk to them during this time.

If you have to stay at home, ask the staff what their policy around mobile phone use is. This may have changed because of the coronavirus outbreak. You could also ask the unit if you could participate in a 'virtual ward round' so you can keep in touch with your teen's mental health team.

If you need to stay at home because you are self-isolating, this could prevent your teen coming home on leave. It's a good idea to talk to your teen about what might happen in this situation.

It's also a good idea to talk to your teen's mental health team about what will happen to your teen if, in the unlikely situation, they are diagnosed with coronavirus.

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 14 May 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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