Tips for parents, teachers and caregivers – supporting young people

Supporting young people during and after COVID-19.

It can be scary hearing about COVID-19 and what’s happening around the world. Young people will look to you for guidance and support for changes ahead. Parents, caregivers, whānau and teachers will have a particularly important part to play in reassuring young people at this time. 

Provide accurate information

Young people will also be seeking information from their peers and the internet. Some of this information and some responses they will be seeing and hearing are unhelpful. Talk to them about getting the most up-to-date information. The New Zealand Government site and the Ministry of Health site are good places to start. They need to know how they can play a part in continuing to avoid infection and spreading the virus.

NZ Government website – covid19.govt.nz(external link)

Ministry of Health(external link)

Talk through any fears

Talk with young people about any fears that they may have. They need to feel that any fears that they may have can be talked about and addressed. Form a plan with them about what you will do if anyone in the family gets sick or one of their friends get sick.

Reassure

If no one in your family has had COVID-19 nor has had close contact with anyone with COVID-19, emphasise to young people that their friends, peers, teachers and your family are fine. Remind them that the right people are working hard to keep New Zealanders safe, including teachers at their school.

How do young people react and what should I do?

All young people are different and will show stress in different ways.

The chart below lists some common concerns or issues experienced by young people and describes how parents, caregivers or teachers can respond:

Concern/issue

Responses

 Tips 

 

Skating around the rules by getting together with friends and others, acting out behaviour. eg using alcohol.

 

Beware teens were not made for isolation. This has made COVID-19 especially hard on them. Work with teens existing motivations by treating them like competent young adults and allow them to manage themselves and help where they can. Have them focus on their values and look to the future.

 

 

Say:

“We know that you want to see your friends again. We know that you are bored and lonely”, but we need you to talk with us about where you are, who you are with and that you are being safe.

 

“Is there anything that I can do to help you get some exercise today?”

 

“What’s your plan?” (As in: “What’s your plan for getting your schoolwork done?; for being with friends?

 

“Can you help sort out some fun activities for your younger sister to do?”

 

“What can you help with around the house today?”

Focus on their values, say:

 

“We hope you see clearly that your actions will directly affect others or affect others safety”.

 

“What do you truly care most about in this crisis?

 

“Who can you help, and who are you concerned that you might harm? “

 

“How can you use your skills to help the world/our community right now? “

 

“If you have grandchildren they are going to ask you about the role you played after this lockdown. What will you tell them?”

 

Assure them that things are getting back to normal.

 

 

Excessive time online and withdrawal from day-to-day activities and interactions

 

Help teens understand that they need to be offline at times, that it’s important for their health as their eyes need a break, their bodies need some sunlight and physical activity to stay well, and they need to also help out at home. 

 

Structure online time alongside time offline to support wellbeing.

 

You could say, “We’re all under stress.  When people’s lives are disrupted this way, we can feel like withdrawing and being online. But we will all need to be healthy and we will feel better when we can help work together at home and keep learning at school. Maybe we can have a look at the routine we have each day, and see what needs changing. We can work out how much online time you need to catch up with school tasks and keep in contact with friends. And then let’s look at times we can all chill out and relax, times for physical activity and times where we need to help each other out.

 

 

Self-consciousness about their fears, sense of vulnerability, afraid of different things such as touching surfaces or going outside, fear of being labelled abnormal.

 

Help teens understand that these feelings are common.

 

Encourage relationships with family/whānau and peers for support, encourage connection on line and in safe community places (but continue to reinforce appropriate social distancing), and encourage physical activity and getting outside everyday.

 

You could say, “I was feeling the same thing – scared and helpless. Most people feel like this when there is a pandemic, even if they look calm on the outside.”

 

“The internet’s available, why don’t you see if you can get hold of Pete to see how he’s doing and what he’s up to; what their family are doing now the lockdown has finished. And thanks for sorting things out with your sister and spending time with her – she’s much better now.”

 

 

Wanting to be alone, feeling guilty or shamed about how they are reacting.

 

Provide a safe time to discuss with your teen the events, changes and their feelings. Emphasise that these feelings are common, and correct self-talk or actions with realistic explanations of what they can do, what they have done in the past and what they are looking forward to achieving again.

 

 

Say, “Many kids and adults feel like you do, angry and blaming themselves for things or being hard on themselves.”

 

Say, “You’re a capable/kind/helpful/cheery person. Remember, everyone is helping. We just need to keep remembering and practicing things to keep ourselves healthy (wash hands, keep up social distancing). “Why don’t you find some ways people are adjusting to the new conditions and share it with us.”

 

 

Fears of recurrence and reactions to reminders.

 

Help clarify the difference between what’s currently happening and things that are being shared online. Explain to teens that pictures and images of the things happening can trigger fears.

 

 

Say, “We need to keep to our plan, we need to follow Government rules about how to supporting each other and keep each other healthy.”

 

Abrupt shifts in interpersonal relationships. Teens might pull away from parents, family/whānau and even from peers. They might respond strongly to parents’ reactions to the pandemic and limits in their community

 

Explain that the strain on relationships is expected. 

 

Emphasise that we need family/whānau and friends for support during this time. Encourage tolerance for different family/whānau members’ reactions and ways of keeping well. Accept responsibility for your own feelings.

 

Spend more time talking as a family/whānau about how everyone is doing. 

Say, “You know, the fact that we’re crabby with each other is completely normal, given what we’re going through. I think we’re handling things amazingly. It’s a good thing we have each other.” You might say, “I appreciate you being calm when your brother was yelling at everyone last night. I know he stopped you doing what you wanted to do. I want to apologise for being irritable with you yesterday. I’m going to work harder to stay calm myself.”

 

 

Radical changes in attitude.

 

Explain that changes in people’s attitudes happen during pandemics, but things will calm down and things will get back to a new normal overtime, we just have to be patient and support everyone through this.

 

Say, “We’re all under great stress.  When people’s lives are disrupted this way, we all feel more scared, angry. It might not seem like it, but we will all feel better when we work together. Maybe we can have a look at the routine we have each day and see what needs changing.”

 

 

Wanting premature entrance into adulthood (eg wanting to leave home, wanting to leave school, wanting to live with a friend).

 

Encourage postponing major life decisions. Find other ways to help your teen feel more in control of things.

 

Say, “I know you’re thinking about quitting school and getting a job to help out. But it’s important not to make big decisions right now. A crisis time and just after the lockdown finishes is not a great time to make major changes.”

 

 

Concern for friends and families/whānau.

 

Encourage constructive activities on behalf of others, but do not burden with undue responsibility.

 

Allow teens to participate in cultural and religious grieving rituals. Help teens to identify projects that are age-appropriate and meaningful (eg helping out, helping neighbours or getting supplies for those in need).

 

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