This article is in response to our contact with families whose children are struggling to manage the current situation. Let’s just remember that the reality is that these are young people who are already managing huge levels of stress and anxiety and the current situation of both the COVID19 virus and “Lockdown” exacerbates their mental health difficulties and feelings of being out of control. They often use their own coping strategies to manage to regulate their emotions some of which we may not choose them to use – such as walking long distances or self-medicating with drugs and alcohol, but if these are unavailable this will also be causing additional stress within families and homes at this time.

Whilst we state the importance of adhering to the guidelines (you have to have physical health before you have a mental health issue)…here are some additional suggestions to support you all:

  1. Parents to stay calm and contained – the atmosphere at home is important.
  2. Reduce expectations about what the children and young people can accomplish, slowdown in responses to them – more patient, concentrate on the relationships rather than the outcome.
  3. Provide a structure like you might do for a younger child.
  4. Agree that it is difficult, empathise and state that you too are finding it challenging.
  5. Allow more freedom with screen time (if appropriate for your child).
  6. Consider not removing the phone as a punishment in these times and tell your child you won’t do this because you recognise the importance of them staying in contact.
  7. Try and have some time together each day doing something like cooking or exercise – something where you can be together but in a relaxed way.
  8. Feign an interest in a TV box set that they like!!
  9. Make plans for the future – holidays and days out if appropriate.
  10. Turn the news updates off when the young people are around. Even if they say they are not listening they will pick up on the emotional reactions that their parents have which can make them feel anxious which is likely to result in walking out of the house.

Remember that as parents and carers, we are all challenged by this situation and if we can be aware of our own reactions this may help the whole household. Research “Square Breathing” grounding techniques and Mindfulness for parents as well as for young people. If you are able to model Mindfulness at home, your child is more likely to consider this an effective way of managing. More hints and tips regarding this will be uploaded soon.

When young people still go out:

If we are realistic, we can recognise that despite the government’s advice and despite ours too, some young people will still go out. If this is the case for your child, please consider the following suggestions:

  1. Try not to get angry- we want your child to return.
  2. Remind them not to meet up in groups – the police will intervene.
  3. When they return wash their hands immediately.
  4. Consider washing their clothes separately from the rest of the family and each child having their own laundry bag in their room.