The lockdown has taken a toll on many people. Teenagers have suffered most of all. One minute, they were on the path to adult independence. The next, they were stuck at home with no school, no way to see their friends, and no activities. Now, the return to “normal” may actually be a scary prospect for them. Here are some ways you can help them ease back into the real world.
Let them set the pace
You may be desperate to see your teenager out and about enjoying life again. Deep down, they may feel the same way. Right now, however, they need to figure out a way forward that they feel comfortable with. They also need to figure out how fast they want to travel along that path.
If they’re really reluctant to leave the nest again (or if they’re really going too far too fast), then you may need to intervene, carefully. In general, you want to try to steer them gently rather than give them firm instructions. Cooperation is always better than fighting.
See if they need medical help
One of the ironies of lockdown is that protecting people against one medical threat sometimes triggered others. Teenagers can be particularly vulnerable to this situation because puberty is a major developmental stage. This means that it can bring up problems (of varying levels of severity) all on its own.
Even though teenagers may think of themselves as adults, it’s often best for them to get care from pediatricians. Certainly, younger teenagers are, medically, more children than adults. From the age of about 15, some children might be fine with regular adult doctors. Some, however, will benefit from pediatric care for at least another three years.
If teenagers are really “not themselves” either mentally or physically, then they may need professional medical help. Try to get their buy-in before you progress this. If, however, they are not open to persuasion, this may be that one time when you have to insist.
Focus on a healthy mind in a healthy body
Teenagers can be very image-aware and this can make them hugely self-conscious. You, therefore, need to tread very carefully if you see that they’re overweight and/or unfit. While you’re going to need to take steps, you need to frame these in the context of health and body-positivity.
For example, if they’ve got into the habit of comfort eating during lockdown, then address it by educating them on the importance of healthy eating for their overall wellbeing. It may be fine to mention that healthy eating will help them to attain and/or maintain a healthy weight. Just be careful about saying anything which could make them feel bad (or worse) about their bodies.
Be aware that teenagers have a significant need for sleep. High-quality sleep plays a vital role in both their physical and their mental development as well as their overall health. Be alert to any issues here and take steps promptly to remedy them. This could mean anything from having a “screen curfew” to getting them new bedding.