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Parenting a teen during coronavirus

While a teen may not demand so much of your attention as a young child might, having a teen at home during coronavirus outbreak does come with its own challenges. Teenagers have a tendency to feel invincible, even in the face of the current outbreak, so they may not really understand the restriction and may feel frustrated about not seeing their friends as much as they want or having events they were looking forward to cancelled.

Unfortunately, this can sometimes result in problems with behaviour and frustrations beginning to show as restrictions continue. To help with this, we’ve pulled together some tips to help you deal with some common issues, and some resources to help your teen.

Tips for getting on with your teenager

Tip #1: It’s good to talk – and to listen

Teens often moan that no one ever listens to them, so let them know that you’re there if they want to talk. Talking with your teenager – and listening to them of course – is one of the best ways to build a good relationship. It may help to set aside a regular time to chat, for example, while sharing a pizza on a Sunday night or when you’re out for a walk.

There’s no need to interrogate them. You could let them know what you’ve being doing and encourage them to share what they’re up to. Let them know you’re interested. You could also try talking to them about your own teenage experiences – they might learn something from your past mistakes. Or at least have a laugh at your fashion sense…

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Tip #2: Agree to disagree

Try not to let your discussions descend into arguments. It’s important to listen to their opinions and respect them, even if you don’t agree with them. Sometimes agreeing to disagree is the best option.

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Tip #3: Give them their own space

Everyone needs time to themselves every so often, and teenagers are no exception. If they want to be alone for a bit, let them. It’s also important to respect their privacy – did you tell your parents everything when you were their age? As long as they don’t seem distressed, you don’t need to press them for information.

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Tip #4: Let them know they're doing a good job

Sometimes you may feel that all you do is nag. Remember to praise them as well and let them know you’re proud of them and you love them. Don’t just praise them for big achievements – notice the day-to-day wins too, like when they’re trying hard, being kind or helping out.

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Tip #5: Set clear boundaries

Just like younger children, teenagers need boundaries, so make sure they know what’s acceptable and what’s not. Be prepared to discuss why these rules are in place, and to compromise if they make a convincing case. When setting rules it’s wise to pick your battles – how important is a tidy bedroom, if they’re keeping up with their schoolwork?

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Tip #6: Be positive

Teenagers may act as if they’re invincible, but their emotions can be fragile. Underneath a stroppy exterior they may be scared or confused by changes happening in their bodies and in the world around them, so being positive and reassuring them that you have their back no matter what will really help. A hug a day goes a long way too. They may shrug you off, but secretly they’ll be reassured. 

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Tip #7: Be patient

Mood swings are normal for teenagers and the way they feel now won’t necessarily be the way they feel next week. If they’re pushing you away just now, don’t let this get to you – it won’t last forever. The best thing you can do is support them through the ups and downs of the teenage years and be there for them if things go wrong. 

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Tip #8: Have fun together

Having a laugh is a great way of building a good relationship. Chances are your interests are quite different, but try to find some common ground and be prepared to compromise. And to accept that most of the compromises are likely to be on your side! Try watching a film or boxset together, sharing music, cooking or baking, or getting them to teach you one of their skills, from something they’ve learnt in school to how to use Tik Tok. 

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Dealing with conflict

Chances are you will have dealt with some form of conflict with your teenager. Whether they’re angry at their friends, their school work, or you, it sometimes feels like teens have cornered the market. The Scottish Centre for Conflict Resolution estimates that nearly 20% of young people think about leaving home because of arguments on at least a monthly basis – showing how important it is to help your teen cope, especially at this time.

It is worth remembering that conflict with your teenager is not always a bad thing - they’re learning to become independent. Here are some tips that can help you respond if your teenager starts to get frustrated.

  • Try to stay calm and listen to them
  • Try to imagine things from your teen’s perspective
  • Ask them questions to try to understand their point of view
  • Try to say things in a positive way
  • Compromising on small things (e.g. what to have for dinner) can be helpful so that your teen feels like they have some control 
  • Be honest
  • Tell the other person how the situation is affecting you and how you feel.

Find out more about conflict resolution at the Scottish Centre for Conflict Resolution.

It might also help if your teen better understood how to deal with conflict. Young Scot – Scotland’s national youth information service –  have put together an amazing page to help teens cope with the challenges of the coronavirus outbreak. Not only is this a great resource to point your teenager towards, to help them understand their own thoughts and feelings, it  may also help you understand what your teenager may be going through, allowing you to better support them. From how to identify the causes of conflict before they happen, to alternative ways to react to difficult situations, this page is sure to help you and your teen get through the frustrations of the current outbreak in a more positive way.

Puberty and periods

Speaking to your kids about puberty is an important job for parents no matter what is going on around us. It’s likely they will have had some lessons at school, and you may have talked to them about this before.  However, now schools are closed and they can’t see their friends, they may need more support than ever or questions which they would normally ask friends or during lessons.

There is no right way to go about talking to your teen about puberty, and chances are they will feel just as nervous discussing this subject as you might. Young Scot have developed a list of FAQs full of information. To help start an open conversation, you could share this link with them and let them know you are available if they want to talk.

If you have a daughter going through puberty, it’s great if you can be open with them about periods too. When they first start, your daughter may find them scary or embarrassing and they may have heard a few urban myths about periods.  It’s important to help your daughter understand that there is nothing to be embarrassed about, and talking to her is a great way to start. You may find it useful to show your daughter this great page from Young Scot to help you debunk myths about periods and help you and your daughter start talking about periods.

Looking after yourself

Being the parent of a teenager can be hard work! To be there for them, you need to be in a good place yourself. Our page on looking after your mental health has tips on how you can clear your head and stay strong.

Further support

Young Scot's Aye Feel hub has lots of information for young people how to look after their emotional wellbeing, support from organisations around Scotland and tips on how to promote a positive mindset.

The Relationship Helpline provides relationship support for families and is a free universal service for anyone over 16 years old who has relationship issues (couples, individuals and families). The service provides immediate emotional support and signposting where appropriate.

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Coronavirus Supporting your teen Pre-teen (9+ years)

Last updated: 29 May, 2020