By Marie Vakakis
The recent snap five day lockdown in Victoria had a huge ripple effect. For many teens and families I see, logistically it wasn’t that difficult to arrange alternative ways of working, schooling and childcare for three working days. What was significant though, was the emotional toll it had on people. A rush of fear, of concern and dread spread, as people remembered how it felt to be in a lockdown in 2021.
The pressures on families may still be happening. Tensions might be high as families try and manage parenting and their own working from home duties.
So, how do we cope if it happens again?
If tensions start to arise there are some things you can try, and remember different things work for different people, so try a whole bunch of things and see what works for you.
Take a deep breath
If you feel yourself getting frustrated or angry, breathe. Take deep breaths for three counts, and breathe out for six, a long deep exhale, like your trying to blow bubbles. If you do this ten times you should notice yourself becoming calmer. This can prevent conflicts escalating.
Find some alone time
On a practical level I saw families come up with some creative ways of supporting each other. For those who are in small spaces, things like using noise cancelling headphones were helpful as an indication that somebody was having some ‘me’ time and was not to be disturbed.
Have a routine
Keeping some sense of routine was really helpful and important. Having regular sleeping and wake times and regular meals is incredibly valuable.
Do things you enjoy
Doing things you enjoy can really help during stressful times. This can be things like; reading, doing some artwork, repairing something, exercise or even baking. Where possible, try things that take you away from technology and use different skills and parts of our brains.
Move your body
Moving your body is incredibly helpful for reducing stress. Getting outside and doing some physical activity is so important. It helps our body process all the chemicals we produce when we are stressed or anxious.
How do I help my teen?
The lockdown has been especially tough on teenagers. They have been deprived of their friends, unsure about their exams and schooling; some are worried about job prospects and university. Don’t dismiss their concerns with, ‘Don’t be silly’ or ‘don’t worry.’ That doesn’t work. Instead ask them questions: “Tell me more – what makes you feel that way?” “What are the thoughts you are having?” Talking with them about this situation can help them cope. This is an incredibly difficult time right now and its okay not to be okay.
Tips for talking to teens
- Reassure them and acknowledge how difficult this time is for them
- Try and understand what they’re going through
- Negotiate boundaries ‘with’ them, as opposed to ‘telling’ them what to do. Teens tend to be much more responsive to discussions including them, rather than rules that dictate to them
- Keep communication open with them – they may not want to talk right now but if you let them know you are open to talking when they are ready, they often will
- Listen wholeheartedly to them, don’t interrupt or interject and offer ideas or solutions – just sit there, listen, and be supportive
When do I seek help?
If your child has problems or challenges in multiple areas of their life such as school performance, leisure activities and hobbies, friendships and/or family relationships, or if you notice changes in your child’s behaviour such as withdrawal, anxiousness, sadness that last for a couple of weeks, it could be a sign that they need some additional support.
I admit, none of this is easy, but it may open the door to an important conversation you and your family have avoided until now.
Marie Vakakis is an accredited mental health social worker and family therapy at The Therapy Hub. www.thetherapyhub.com.au