Covid-19 meant the world changed suddenly and dramatically for young people. The amount of change had a large impact for many. Now we’re starting to have restrictions eased, what effect will this have and how can we help young people to manage it?
We have heard about such wide-ranging experiences. For some, the anxiety of attending school or college was taken away, but for others the loss of the opportunity to complete their studies made them feel sad. For some, being in the safety of their home and having time with their family was a bonus, but for others it brought a sense of danger or a realisation that their family life was different to others’. For some, it was a time to connect with those close to them, for others it has been so lonely.
Being in lockdown has highlighted new issues and emphasised existing ones.
We now need to reflect on the impact coming out of lockdown may have. There is no right or wrong way to think or feel, just a need to understand the importance of each individual experience. Key issues include:
Change Young people naturally deal with a lot of change as they grow up. Now they will have to deal with a lot more – education, friendships, families, activities, going out…the list goes on. Not only that, it will continue to change regularly for the foreseeable future. Encouraging young people to talk about their experience, acknowledging their feelings and normalising this can help them to make sense out of it. Discuss with them what will change and how they can manage this to make things easier. Having a sense of empowerment can make a huge difference.
Tolerance Being at home for so long, maybe with little to do, or not having anything to aim for, has meant that a lot of young people are feeling demotivated and under-stimulated. Reverting back to busy, fast-paced environments, with the increased need to stay safe, could become overwhelming very quickly. Work with them to take small steps, slowly increasing their exposure to different situations. Reflect on how it feels.
Safety We will all naturally be questioning our safety. Even if we have tried to protect our children from the news, they will see constant reminders in public places and they may have been exposed to a lot of negativity on social media. It is essential that we focus on safety from a positive perspective. For example, for children going back to school, reminding them that the safety measures are there to protect them and that schools will keep them safe is a lot more reassuring than hearing constant comments about the risks they face.
Transitions Going from the safety of home to a new environment can be daunting. Schools will be different, shops will be different, life will be different. Add to this, the transitions young people naturally face – starting school, college or university, new friendships, bodily changes and the result can be overwhelming. The potential for separation anxiety will be higher. Be aware, be encouraging and remind them of the safe haven they will come back to. Keeping secure boundaries is key, it gives young people a sense of safety.
Loss A sense of loss can be felt in numerous ways. Whether it has been through bereavement, loss of contact with family and friends, loss of routine, loss of regular events and loss of familiarity. The additional changes as we go through the easing of lockdown may bring a loss of the security of home and what has been ‘normal’ for the last few months. Loss can bring a range of emotions such as anger, low mood and denial, before it can be accepted. Be open, talk about their feelings as well as yours. Role modelling how to manage difficult situations can be very powerful for young minds.
The most important thing to remember is that we have more control now and it’s vital we use it.
Going into lockdown was very sudden, coming out of it will be more gradual. Use this process to be aware of the mental health and emotional wellbeing of young people. Start with a celebration of achievements – yours and theirs. This has been a totally unexpected experience. What has gone well? What have they learnt about themselves? How can they use this experience in the future?
Be prepared, be encouraging, be open and be positive.