Between the non-stop media coverage, the physical distancing guidelines and the general uncertainty around school and business closures, it’s a very challenging time to be parenting a teenager.
Having teenagers confined to home during the coronavirus crisis may not be as labour-intensive as being holed up with small children, but it definitely has its challenges. While younger children may be thrilled at the prospect of having parental attention 24/7, adolescents are likely to feel differently.
Their lives have been turned upside down; schools and colleges have closed, sports and hobbies have been cancelled and friends are unable to meet up, leading to a completely new daily routine.
While you continue to do your best, it's understandable if you find being quarantined with your teenager challenging. But, there is hope and easy ways you can help.
Ahead, 8 tips for parenting teenagers (and young adults suddenly home from college) during this time...
Emphasize social distancing
The first challenge with teens and young adults may be getting them to comply with the guidelines for social distancing. Teenagers tend to feel invincible and they are likely to be well aware that the new coronavirus is not as problematic for their age range as it is for older people. While the facts may be on their side, it's important to explain to your teenager that exposure to this virus is an exponential thing and that it’s not really about them. It doesn't matter if they feel fine, they could be carriers and potentially pass the virus onto the people they love. One thing to emphasize is they just can’t know that your friends are well. And while they may be comfortable taking that risk, they're also bringing that back in your house.
Maintain A Healthy Diet
While your method of coping with the constant #COVID-19 updates is to promote your evening glass of wine to the afternoon, your teen may indulge in stress eating. We're not saying you or your teen needs to give up snacking completely (that would be cruel) but including as many healthy foods into your teenagers' diet – and yours for that matter – is an excellent compromise.
Try to increase their intake of low GI carbohydrates such as vegetables, pulses, lentils and fresh fruit. Foods with a low glycaemic index release their energy slower, avoiding a sharp rise in blood sugar levels which can cause tiredness, irritability, poor concentration and stress/anxiety.
Replace white bread, rice and pasta with complex carbohydrate foods such as brown rice, quinoa, wholemeal brown bread, whole-wheat pasta, oats and rye. These foods also release energy slowly and are thought to increase the amount of serotonin in your brain, which has a calming effect.
Protein is another essential in your teenager's diet as it's needed for the growth and repair of muscles and tissues, and the production of enzymes and hormones. Turkey is an excellent source of tryptophan - a precursor to serotonin - the feel-good hormone.
boost brain power
Teenagers require omega-3 and healthy omega-6 GLA to help boost brain power and regulate hormones and balance mood. With schools closed, keeping teenagers brain focused and concentration levels high is even more of a challenge. It is important to note that the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) state that students require at least 250mg omega-3 DHA daily while studying for exams. Oily fish (sardines, anchovies, mackerel, salmon) is a direct source of omega-3 EPA and DHA, which support brain, eye, and heart health throughout life.
That said unless your child is eating 2-3 portions of oily fish a week, they're not intaking enough omega-3. A great way to boost brain power if your teen isn't a big fish eater is with an omega-3 supplement such as Eskimo Brain 3-6-9.
Dehydration is caused by not drinking enough water to replace what we lose throughout the day, and tiredness is one of the first signs of dehydration. Even mild dehydration can impair many aspects of your child's brain function and have a negative effect on their attention span, memory and motor skills, all of which will negatively impact upon their academic progress at school. Be sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day along with green tea and relaxing herbal teas. If your teenager really doesn’t like the taste of water, you can add fruits such as lemon/lime or orange slices and berries to add a bit of flavour.
Understand their frustrations
For teenagers and young adults, friends are hugely important, and they are supposed to be — bonding with peers is one of the essential developmental tasks of adolescents. If your teen is sulking about being stuck at home with parents and siblings, a direct conversation might be helpful. Acknowledge that you know it’s frustrating for them to be cut off from friends. Listen to what they’re feeling, validate those feelings and then be direct about how you can work together to make this situation bearable.
Loosening rules about time spent on social media, for instance, will help compensate for the socialising time lost with school closings. Encourage them to be creative about new ways to interact with their friends socially.
cut down on caffeinated drinks
While some teenagers enjoy a lot of caffeine, especially when studying long hours; you should try to limit their caffeine drinks intake to a maximum of two cups daily. Whilst drinking tea, coffee or coco cola can perk you up, it can also make it difficult to concentrate. It will also mean that you’ll have a harder time getting to sleep, so limiting your intake to earlier in the day is preferable.
With all sports and hobbies on hold, it is important to encourage your teen to incorporate exercise into their daily regime. Thankfully, there are many online classes available such as pilates and yoga plus 1000s of exercise classes incorporating aerobic exercises and strength and conditioning. Doing outdoor exercises within the 2km radius such as walking, jogging and running is also recommended. Exercise for at least 30 minutes, 3 times a week at a minimum. Just find something that they enjoy and just do it!
let them sleep
One thing teens are good at: sleeping. While oversleeping is just as bad for you as insomnia, a good night's sleep helps you to think more clearly and will also help to store the information you have been revising. Removing all devices from the bedroom at night-time is a really good way to improve sleeping habits. For an hour before bed, encourage them to read a book or listen to music to settle their mind.
validate their feelings and concerns
Let your teen know that it’s normal to be feeling stressed or anxious about the current situation. Reassure them of what you’re doing to help them stay safe (e.g. practising good hygiene, staying at home). Learning effective anxiety relaxation techniques is an important part of coping with stress and anxiety. Try yoga, pilates or meditation to help relax and reduce anxiety. Mindfulness meditation has long been known as an antidote for anxiety.
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Find the full range of Eskimo supplements in health stores, pharmacies and online.
Main image by Jake Pierrelee