A powerful way to improve your child’s mental health through Covid-19
2020 has been an unforgettable year and in many respects for all the wrong reasons. Almost overnight, our lives changed dramatically, with restrictions on who we can see, where we can go and what we can do. These changes have lasted longer than most of us expected. For some, it has had a devastating impact with bereavements, job losses, financial instability and continuing uncertainty about the future. For all of us, it’s meant significant lifestyle changes and an inability to meet up with many of those we love. This year’s been especially tough on teenagers, with school closures, lack of face to face contact with friends and many of their favourite pastimes cancelled because of social distancing measures.
Looking at these things, it could be easy to write off the year in negative terms focusing on all the things we had planned that were cancelled, or all the things we’d hoped to do but couldn’t. This can have a very negative effect on mental wellbeing by viewing life through a dark perspective and ongoing restrictions can maintain this harmful state of mind long term. Notwithstanding the challenges, there have been many positive elements to this year, and it’s worth focusing on these to help your teen (and you!) to “reframe” this different lifestyle through a brighter point of view. How we perceive a situation will have a significant impact on how we feel about it, so using the reframing technique of looking at a situation from a more positive angle can make us feel better and improve our mindset, even though the situation itself has not changed at all.
Reframing the narrative – what has been good about 2020?
1. More time with the family
Home schooling, working from home and less places to go have meant families have spent more time together. There are lots of benefits to this, including reinforcing family bonding, providing greater security and bolstering a sense of belonging.
2. Pace of living has slowed down
Over recent years, the pace of life has accelerated. Fear of missing out has encouraged us to take advantage of all possible opportunities, leaving many of us exhausted, rushing from one commitment to another. With the elimination of many activities, there has been much more time to take stock and really enjoy the moment.
3. More time enjoying nature
The benefits of spending time in nature are many and most of us have spent more time outdoors, enjoying the fresh air, countryside or parks this year. This aids feelings of wellbeing, happiness and sleep – all excellent for health. It also helps us be in closer touch to nature’s cycle. Think back, have you noticed more clearly the changing of the seasons, different flowers and trees blooming, the vibrancy of autumn leaves? Connecting with nature is not only soothing, it helps us gain perspective on our own feelings by providing context of our place in the greater world, helping us cope better with our own personal problems.
4. Greater appreciation of things that are important to us
With so much uncertainty, it’s given us the opportunity to re-evaluate what’s important and appreciate the things we have rather than taking them for granted.
5. Chance to develop new skills at home
With families spending more time at home, teenagers have had chance to develop life skills they might not otherwise have experienced, such as cooking, gardening and DIY. This is going to make life much easier for them when they leave home because they will have a better understanding on how to look after themselves on a practical level.
6. Less pressure on doing fashionable things
Keeping up with friends can be expensive as well as exhausting. Social media provides an instant means of sharing what everyone is doing and the fear of not fitting in with peers by sharing their experiences is more pronounced now than ever before. Shopping for the latest fashions, attending concerts, gigs, festivals, sporting events and the theatre are costly too. This pressure has been temporarily removed with the cancellation of all large group gatherings.
7. More free opportunities online
With face to face gatherings restricted, there have been hosts of online experiences offered for free, including courses, concerts and plays. Many celebrities have broadcast from their homes, taking part or creating interviews, podcasts and videos to stay connected with their audience. This has given us a unique insight into how they live and offered a different experience of entertainment that we hadn’t previously seen.
8. Importance of staying connected
Being unable to see our friends and loved ones has highlighted how important this is and given us a greater appreciation for the opportunity to see people in person. To compensate, we’ve all got much better at staying in touch by phone, text and video conference. Many of us have communicated far more frequently with our extended friends and family than we would have done otherwise.
9. Learning more about our local area
How many teens really explore the area where they live outside a few favourite haunts? Being restricted to staying within our own locality has meant we’ve needed to find things to do closer to home, even if that’s just pounding the streets on our daily walks. Being able to enjoy things that are physically close to home, rather than needing to travel extensively to access them, is good for health.
What to do next
Ask you teen what changes they have enjoyed and would like to keep going when restrictions are no longer in place. This thought process is not meant to fake positivity where there was none; pretending to be happy is no substitute for genuine contentment. It’s about assessing all aspects of a situation and recognising that whilst there have been disappointments, uncertainty and disruption, there have been silver linings too. Reduction in commuting to work, more time with the family, eating home-cooked meals together and staying in more regular touch with our friends and local communities are all positive elements that have come out of the Covid-19 drama. When looking to the future, do we really want everything to go back to the way it was before?