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How to talk to a teen about Covid-19

The Covid-19 or Coronavirus pandemic has impacted every part of our lives. In fact, there’s no escaping the virus, with talk of the outbreak everywhere we turn. This nonstop news cycle is particularly concerning for parents. Parents of teenagers have a mammoth task on their hands as the web and social media make it so easy to access information – and misinformation – on the virus. Getting in there first and talking to your teen about Covid-19 is therefore important.

In the week when students should have been returning to school after the Easter holidays, having ‘the chat’ with your teenager has never been so crucial. School leavers are especially vulnerable during this difficult time, but with the right guidance from you, your teenager can be encouraged to see the positives, even as you get to grips with your ‘new normal’. Read our advice on chatting to your teen about the Coronavirus outbreak.

Remember honesty is always the best policy

There’s no right or wrong way to talk to your teen about the outbreak, but aim to be as transparent as you can about the nature of the outbreak. You know your teen better than anyone else, so use this knowledge to adapt your approach.

It all starts with a conversation, and it’s a subject you should bring up. Your teenager may be feeling anxious about bringing the subject up as it is a definite point of anxiety for the whole family. They are likely to have a lot of questions as they worry about their futures and the futures of all their loved ones. Be sure to answer these questions honestly, and if you don’t know the answer, be honest about that too.

Whatever their age, remember that reassurance is a vital part of this difficult conversation as Anxiety UK details:

“Give plenty of reassurance. In particular, make it very clear that children and teenagers are extremely unlikely to get very ill – a cough or a sore throat at worst. At time of writing, we don’t believe that any child under 10 has died anywhere in the world.  If you, yourself, are youngish and reasonable healthy, you can also give some assurance that you are also very unlikely to get seriously ill. However, be wary of giving absolute guarantees.”

Dig deeper into how life will or could change

Get clued up on how Covid-19 is affecting exams, college and uni admissions, and any other area that’s relevant to your teen.

During lockdown and after the upheaval of being pulled out of school early, your teenager may be struggling to maintain motivation to keep studying towards an unknown future. Questions like “will they have a space at uni?”, “will they even go to university?”, “how will their grades be sorted out to reflect a true level of what they have achieved and were going to achieve in their summer exams?” and “how will they earn money to save for their next stage in life?” will no doubt be contributing to this lack of enthusiasm. The denial of the rite of passage every school leaver should experience as they transition from one part of their life to another and say goodbye to friends and teachers is also certain to have an impact on them and their motivation levels.

Attempt to pre-empt these questions and look for the answers to these queries before initiating your Covid-19 chat. Look to resources from schools and colleges within your area for advice. Most will be providing information about the next steps for them and their pupils (including their prospective students) in light of the recently enforced lockdown. This guidance from the Department of Education is another worthy read for parents and carers.

During your discussion, let them express their own concerns, disappointments and fears before detailing what life may be like for them going forward.

Give them privacy, space and respect to process

There’s a lot to process at this challenging time, and even the most level-headed adults are struggling to handle the current state of things. Following your discussion, give your teenager the space, privacy and respect needed to process information on their own terms. Remember their room is their domain so don’t encroach on this personal space unless invited.

That being said, balancing this need for privacy with a pinch of reality is vital. Encourage routine throughout the family unit and inject some normality during these crazy times. You don’t have to enforce a strict schedule, simply include a decent wake up time and bedtime, regular meal times and daily exercise to keep your teenager and wider family moving and motivated. Be mindful however that your teen may have a very different body clock to adults and smaller children in the household!

Recognise the positives and get your teen to do the same

During this terrible time, it’s difficult to draw your attention away from the negatives. But seeing the positives and encouraging your teen to do the same is vital.

Lockdown is a great opportunity for your teen to become healthier, happier and more independent. Together you can foster skills and qualities that they can rely on long after lockdown has come to an end. You can take a simple step in a more positive direction by helping your teen to develop a sense of responsibility for their own wellness. With this in mind, let them have a hand in setting their own at-home routine.

Trust and help them to take control of things they can control. Support your teen to continue learning, stay connected with friends, plan their next educational steps or learn a new skill they’ve always wanted to try. Your teen’s time in lockdown should be a period of exploration, development and positivity, and could even inspire a change of direction.

You should also support each other to feel more balanced and positive. Learn what makes them tick, what’s important to them and what they miss to instil a better understanding and hone an even better relationship with your teen. Setting time aside to be with your teen is one big positive that will stay with you both when normal life resumes.

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