Handy Tips for Parenting Teenagers in Challenging Times

Young people are existing and learning to thrive in an ever changing world. The Global Pandemic has presented many challenges and caused various disruptions which have directly impacted the lives and routines of young people. Some of those challenges are lock down and restricted social gatherings, Isolation from friends & family, fast changes in school, and continuously dealing with health questions or concerns about Coronavirus. So how can parents help teenagers with their emotional health and general wellbeing during these times?

A great place to start is addressing your own wellbeing. You can use this as an anchor to improve the mental health and wellbeing of the entire family. Ensure you are looking after your own mental health by practising self-care and establishing effective wellness routines. A great analogy for this is the “putting your own oxygen mask on first” in order to help others. All too often, parents and carers focus their energy on what their children may need, and they can forget themselves, and their own mental health and wellbeing. By pressing the ‘reset and restore’ button you are able to take care of yourself and this will allow you to be the best parent you can be for your teenager.

Now that we have your baseline covered we can dive deep into the 8 handy tips we have compiled for  parenting teenagers during challenging times:

  1. Praise and Use Positive Affirmations:

    Using positive affirmations (affirming statements) and praising your teenager can go a long way to building their confidence and coping. What teenagers hear from a parent can be so powerful to their confidence levels and general wellbeing. Take notice of behaviour that warrants praise. Whenever they do something you like and want to encourage, specifically name the behaviour and then use positive words or praise. 

Examples of Positive affirmations for teenagers:

  • “I am proud of you, you did your best”
  • “You are really good at ………..”
  • “You are a good helper”
  • “I can see you are trying your best, I am pleased”  

You may not be used to giving praise, but it can be extremely impactful. To learn more about how to give praise to teenagers, check out the great video in the links section at the end.

2. Establish structure and Routine:

Structure and routine is important and can be really protective when managing uncertain and unnerving times such as a global pandemic! Try to get your teenager to go to bed and wake up around the same time each day. Help them create a daily routine by using their calendar or wall poster that is easily visible. Remind them to jot down special dates or assignments due. Try your absolute best to maintain routines that suit your family. For example, support regular dinner together or regular family movie night. If you haven’t already created family rituals or traditions, this could be a great time start. When considering setting up a new ritual, think about something that can be consistent so that your teenager can have something to look forward to. This simple strategy can create a level of comfort in knowing there is stability of family routines.

3. Encourage Physical Activity Daily

Staying active helps us sleep better, manage stress and can really boost our moods (it’s a scientific fact that exercise brings us good feelings). The trick here is to support your teenager to engage in something they enjoy and that can be easily added to a regular routine. This could be walking to and from school, playing a sport, yoga, or dancing. You may even do some fun exercises together with your teenager like bike riding or going for a walk.

For info about how to increase physically activity in daily life and free coaching, check out: HEAL

4. Eating Healthy Food:

There is lots of evidence to show that there is a strong link between what we eat and how we feel. Prepare healthy meals and invite your teenager to be part of their meal preparation. This can be a great way to learn about nutrition. Learning together about the health benefits associated with food can be a great way to stay healthy, especially if we are under any heightened stress. For young people, this could be around exam or assessment times, or during school routine changes. To learn more about nutrition and healthy food choices check out the healthy food for teens link at the end

5. Promote Good Sleep:

Getting the right amount of sleep is essential for the brain and body. Good sleep improves concentration, helps manage stress and can help with boosting our moods. For 12–17yr olds, 8 to 10 hours sleep is ideal. For 18yrs+, 7 to 9 hours is ideal. Maybe during Coronavirus lock down, your teenager’s sleeping patterns varied, with staying up later than usual playing video games or scrolling on TikTok. Encouraging them to get sleeping patterns regular and getting enough sleep is so important for teenagers. Sleep is like a mental health superpower. While their brains are still developing, getting enough sleep will also help improve their memory, support attention, and can help stop craving unhealthy snacks.  For more helpful information on sleep hygiene check out headspace Sleep Facts 

6. Encourage open communication: 

As the situation is continually evolving, talking about COVID with teenagers is important, and this can provide comfort and a safe space for teenagers to ask questions or air their concerns. Asking your teenager how much they know and understand about the current situation can be a great way to open the conversation. Allow them to talk freely, and be supportive by letting them know you are there for them. It is completely fine not to know all the answers. Use this as an opportunity to connect with, and support, your teenager.

7. Managing stress through calming activities:  

It is important for teenagers (and parents) to deal with their stress in healthy and positive ways. Teenagers are going to school in a time where the pandemic is impacting their learning environments, how they connect with friends and with their educators. Stress levels of young people could be higher than usual so it’s important we offer strategies and outlets for teenagers to discharge some of that stress. Encourage your teenager to do something calming everyday like journaling, drawing, breathing exercises, or meditation. Or another positive activity or hobby that sparks their interest, and brings good feelings for them. The earlier tips on healthy eating, sleep and physical activity are so important to reduce stress levels and can improve the general physical and emotional health for both teenagers and caregivers.

8. Help teenagers develop healthy coping strategies:

The role of the parent or carer is to support your teenager with difficult emotions and if your teenager is anxious, overwhelmed or stressed you can help them discover healthy ways of coping.  The aim is to encourage healthy coping strategies and activities. Below are examples of what healthy coping strategies may look like:

Practicing self-compassion- remind them to be kind to themselves and not self-critical. You can introduce positive self-affirmations here and encourage them to practice saying positive things to themselves e.g. “I am trying my best” or “I am worthy”

Relaxation time- after school or day time activities, encourage them to have time out and do activities which are relaxing and fun, such as chatting and laughing with their friends about something positive.

Talking about it- Remind them that you are there for them and they can talk to you about anything bothering them, and they also have others they can talk to such as other family members, teachers or older siblings.

Seeking professional help when required: If you are worried about your teenager’s mental health, or you have noticed that they are not coping well or that they are using unhealthy coping strategies which might harm them, there is professional help out there. You can start by making an appointment with your local GP. Alternatively, you can contact NSW parent line https://www.parentline.org.au/ or ph.1300 130052, or contact your local headspace centre https://headspace.org.au/.  If you are in the St George or Sutherland area, 2Connect can also help (contacts below). Talk to your teenager about your observations and concerns.  Be open and transparent by inviting them into the process of support seeking.

Let this be a gentle reminder that you and your teenager can do this, one day at a time! You can support your teenager through challenging times. You can be resilient. Remember to be kind to yourself by practising self-care and reaching for supports when needed.

We wish you happy parenting and hope you found some positive parenting tips here which you can use straight away.

2Connect has free support services for a young person, parent or other family member in the St George or Sutherland region to talk about any concerns or difficulties. Phone us on 95561769 or read how we can help here.

Other useful links and supports for parents:

How to praise your teenager

Healthy food for teens

Reachout (for Parents)

Raising children (Teens)