What’s tougher than parenting a teenager? Parenting a teenager during a global pandemic.
Many families are bunkered down right now, trying to adjust to new work, school and family schedules at home.
With everything happening under one roof, both parents and teenagers might experience stronger emotions and tensions.
So while families are staying at home to help slow the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19), they might need some extra help to look after their mental health and wellbeing.
“Beyond the current coronavirus measures, we all need the ability to adapt,” says Associate Professor Marie Yap from Monash University, “Resilience in young people will enable them to persist and thrive through the challenges ahead.”
Marie is a Psychologist and Head of the Parenting and Youth Mental Health Group at Monash. She founded a free online program called Partners in Parenting to bring together the latest research, evidence and expert advice on the ways parents can help protect their teenager’s mental health and wellbeing.
Free online program Partners in Parenting is designed for parents to build skills that could help reduce their teenager’s risk of depression or anxiety
“The skills and strategies you need to support your teenager at any time are especially relevant now as families try to adapt to changes in their lives due to the coronavirus pandemic,” said Marie.
“A big focus of the Partners in Parenting program is communication, and how to maintain a close relationship with your teenager during the highs and lows of adolescence,” said Marie.
“Ultimately, the program provides practical strategies for parents that will help build their teenager’s resilience – the ability to bounce back from life’s challenges.”
How does the Partners in Parenting program work
“Partners in Parenting is an evidence-based online parenting program designed to help build parents’ skills and confidence in ways that may reduce their teenager’s risk of depression or anxiety disorders,” said Marie.
Over 700 randomly selected families in Australia have trialled the program, which offers a “personalised approach to parenting support”.
What do parents need to do?
- Sign up for free at partnersinparenting.com.au
- Take the survey to get your personalised program
- Start your recommended program (up to nine interactive modules)
- Complete one module per week (15-20 minutes each)
What does the program cover?
The modules will cover the key areas important to parents:
- Establishing and maintaining a close relationship
- Staying involved while supporting independence
- Establishing family rules and consequences
- Minimising conflict at home
- Helping teenagers solve problems
Looking for some key tips to get you started right now? The Partners in Parenting website has a tip sheet for parents you can download before you sign up for the program. Below are six of their key tips.
Tips from the experts behind Partners in Parenting, the free online mental health program for parents with teenagers
- Set a good example by staying as calm as you can. Even though you may be stressed and concerned yourself, it’s important to use a calm, reassuring tone and keep to the facts. Teens will look to parents to gauge how worried they should be, even though it may seem like they just ignore you! This is a time to have conversations about how we deal with difficult times together
- Adjust your expectations. Remember you’re living in strange new times and are doing the best you can to deal with them. You may not be as productive or organised as you usually are. Your teenager may be in their pyjamas all day and on their device more than normal. Pick your battles and focus on the things that matter most at the moment.
- Take cues from your teen. Some young people might not be worried about the coronavirus. But some might be frightened, upset or distressed. They might be worried about the virus itself as well as how it’s affecting their lives. Tailor your support to the level of comfort that they need.
- Ask your teen how they are feeling and listen to what they say. Teenagers can sometimes bottle things up, or not be sure whether or how to express their worries, so it’s particularly important to support them to express themselves and ask questions about what’s going on for them. It might reassure your teen if you share your own feelings and let them know what you are doing to cope with them. Knowing that others feel the same can help make them feel they’re not alone.
- Encourage your teens to get creative with how they stay connected with their friends and loved ones. Technology is a big help here. Sharing playlists, photo albums and videos can also be a good way for teens to connect while expressing themselves too.
- Keep looking forward. It may not feel like it, but ‘this too shall pass’. It’s important to have confidence that things will improve, and to convey this confidence to your teen that people will recover, and things will get back to normal.
You can download their full tip sheet for parents and carers coping with the coronavirus pandemic here.
If you want to keep exploring other resources that both parents and teenagers can use, the Partners in Parenting program team have listed some more options below.
What other free programs or resources can help parents during the coronavirus pandemic?
Resources for parents to use:
- Raising Children Network Coronavirus (COVID-19) guide
- World Health Organization - Parenting in the time of COVID-19
Resources teenagers can use:
- ReachOut Australia: Resources and forum for managing the coronavirus
- Headspace: How to cope with stress related to Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)
Parents who think that their child is seriously struggling with their mental health should seek appropriate help (see our previous blog for a list of mental health support services for kids and young people).
Partners in Parenting is being rolled out in partnership with mental health charity Prevention United, and with thanks to funding from the Helen MacPherson Smith Trust and support from Monash University.
Have a coronavirus question?
For all coronavirus questions visit www.coronavirus.vic.gov.au or call the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) hotline on 1800 020 080