It's especially difficult for teenagers

Currently, an estimated 2.6 billion people – one-third of the world’s population is living under some kind of lockdown or quarantine. This is certainly the largest psychological experiment ever conducted.

Social distancing is compulsory for everyone but it is tough for adolescents as they are feeling the pain because the world of teens revolve round their friends. They are their support groups.

Separating from others goes against basic human needs for companionship and connection that everyone feels, yet the challenge of social distancing may be especially difficult for teenagers. They are not battling with Corona Virus ,their battle is with mental health.

Adolescence is a time when forming and maintaining close, intimate friendships is a dire developmental task. Teens are socially and emotionally prepared for this task, and achieving it provides them abilities they need for meeting the challenges ahead. They spend much of their time with peers and friends and these  relationships have important implications for adjustment and well-being.

They learn social and emotional skills in their peer group and this becomes the base for their success in future relationships. They learn in the group, how  to give and ask for help and support. Together in the group they work on conflict resolution, compromise, forgiveness, closeness, intimacy and reliability and they figure out how to make others laugh and have fun together. This helps them in perfecting competencies that are crucial for successful relationships throughout the rest of their lives.

Adolescents need emotional and behavioural autonomy. Staying indoors and practice social distancing make many teens stubble. They want to meet their friends, spend time with them. The home  seems like a scary place for teenagers in this lockdown. It’s our job as parents, to not only protect them, but also to do everything possible to help them to feel safe. As we try to protect them from violence, we must also protect them from the psychological effects due to the stress caused by the lockdown. They are very likely to develop a wide range of symptoms of psychological stress and disorders, including low mood, insomnia, stress, anxiety, anger, irritability, emotional exhaustion, depression and post-traumatic stress symptoms. Low mood and irritability specifically stand out as being very common.

Adolescents have the tendency to make risky decisions . An adolescent  can also think about the positive and negative consequences of social distancing, but adolescent may emphasize the rewards of seeing friends, while we as adult may put more weight on the health risks of contracting or spreading the virus.

So being a parent what you have  to do?

Your child still needs you to secure the base you provide. Take interest and be available to your child so that he may know that he can turn to you when he needs to.

We as parents have to realise that adolescents have a  desire to be with friends  and it is realistic feature of this stage and recognize that their anxiety is completely normal.

Create distractions. We are under chronically difficult conditions, it’s very helpful if you divide the problem for them into two categories: things they can do something about, and then things they cannot do nothing about. Make a list of those activities, a lot will falls under that second category , and that’s okay, but one thing that helps them to deal with that is creating distractions for themselves.My suggestion is help them in doing homework, help them to make their connection strong with Allah and seek Allah’s help in relieving stress and find balance in the day-to-day.

We should encourage their social connections and help them figure out how to maintain those interactions, though from a distance. Social media is a great way to connect but at the same time  it’s not going to be a good idea to have unfettered access to screens and or social media. That’s not healthy, that’s not smart, it may amplify their  anxiety. Being a parents you should recommend a work out  screen-time schedule.

Help them in focusing on themselves. You can help them  to learn how to do something new, start a new book or spend time practicing a new hobby? Focusing on yourself and finding ways to use your new-found time in a productive way to look after your mental health.Make a list of all of the books they want to read and the things that they want to do. Some teens are going to make art, some teens are interested in music, some are interested in cooking and baking, ask them to clean their closets, plan a tea party with them, ask them to rearrange or redecorate their room, plan a family garden. What’s important is that they should be allowed to do what they feel right for them.

Continue to talk with teens about the coronavirus and its consequences. Accept the uncertainty everyone feels.

Spend quality time with them and be their friends and make sure that they discuss  with you the acute issues and can find the help that they need.

And finally, understand that teens need for autonomy, their arguing about the difficulty of what they’re not allowed to do and their lack of unrestrained excitement about forced family time all fit with the social, emotional and cognitive tasks that define adolescence.

Sheeba Mohi ud Din is a Research Scholar in Clinical Psychology, and  a lecturer in Education Department.