While we constantly scroll our phones and wait for updates on COVID-19, it can be very easy to succumb to total anxiety. As parents, teachers and a school community, it is important to remember some basic wellbeing strategies we can use when talking to teenagers about what is going on.
Dr Michael Carr-Gregg discusses what parents can do on our School TV channel. You can watch it here
Dr Lisa D’Amour, a psychologist and journalist for the New York Times suggests five simple steps for talking to teenagers about the coronavirus. You can read her full article here (paywalled).
1. Normalise their anxiety
Try to avoid being worried about worry. Validate how they’re feeling and talk calmly to them about what is going on.
2. Offer perspective
- Don’t overestimate the dangers or underestimate their ability to manage it. They can engage in active hand washing, stay home from school and away from people if they feel sick, and avoid large groups of people.
- Remind them that 85% of people have mild symptoms, and even milder symptoms for children.
- Explain to them the importance of social distancing from people over the age of 60 years.
3. Shift the spotlight
Give teenagers an opportunity to consider how they can help others – because as we all know, kindness calms anxiety and improves our wellbeing in general. Who is having a tougher time than them right now? How could they help?
Avoid the constantly updating news and refer to reliable information.
5. Manage your own anxiety
We know that children from age zero to 60 pick up on parent anxiety. Try to manage your own anxiety around this and be honest with your children about how you’re feeling. Do steps one to four yourself, as well.
You can talk to your teenager about how:
They can still go to school at the moment (until the government advises otherwise). St Catherine’s has taken a lot of preventative measures to ensure students are not interacting across year groups.
- We are set up for online lessons via ZOOM.
- We are containing interactions across year groups.
- Hand sanitiser is everywhere around the school.
- We are trying to space out desks as much as possible.
- We have cancelled assemblies.
- We have an extra professional cleaner going through the school regularly to keep it disinfected.
If you or your family do need to self isolate, try to keep a bit of a routine to the day. The school will release a schedule so all timetabled classes will be held at the same time. This should hopefully help with structuring the day to allow students to learn and parents to work from home.
Connection is possible and incredibly important during social distancing. The below is from Psychology Today:
“But with this distance also comes isolation, which means you might start to feel lonely. And we know that loneliness can be very detrimental to our mental health, in particular as it fuels symptoms of depression and anxiety (Lim et al., 2016)
We were already in a “loneliness epidemic” before coronavirus, so more than ever, we have to be proactive in our fight against loneliness. We have to take charge of our social lives and make sure we’re still connecting with others and getting that oxytocin rush that is so important for our emotional health (Kosfeld et al., 2005).”
As a way to avoid the onset of loneliness during social isolation:
- telephone and video call friends and family. Whatsapp chats are great, but even better is actually talking to a friend, or video chatting with them. Remember students interact with around 60 people a day in person at school – so try to keep the conversations flowing
- create virtual hang outs where students can have the equivalent of ‘lunch in the playground’ with their friends at home
- get into board games or online games with your children – Words With Friends or Minecraft if you have younger children
- find some good YouTube videos for yoga, Just Dance, or marble races
- enjoy a television series together as a family. Be willing to watch The Vampire Diaries (vampires are really not great at social distancing).
Promote students practising social distancing – wait for the next bus, or walk if it is not too far. Obsessively wash your hands and don’t touch your face.
Remember, our grandparents were called to war, we are being called to our couches – it’s not too bad.
Director of Wellbeing