With things feeling constantly uncertain because of COVID-19, it’s hard to predict what’s going to happen even next week, so the idea that the future is something to look forward to might be a tough sell just now.
It’s particularly challenging for teens and young people, who spend much of their time and education focusing on preparing for their future.
It can be a hard reality to confront, and it’s normal for teens to feel apprehensive or confused. Read on to understand why your teen might be worried, and learn how you can help them to get back on track, overcome any setbacks and look forward to a positive future.
Why young people are stressed about the future
Work, work, work
During school, much of your child’s focus is centred on what happens after they finish their studies. But with COVID-19 impacting the job economy, it’s to be expected that your teen might be feeling increased stress around their options.
Dealing with real life
For many young people, finishing school is equal parts exciting and intimidating. On the one hand, they’re ready to take the next step in life; but on the other, they’re worried about confronting real-world problems.
Whether it’s maintaining friendships outside of school, navigating new relationships, or facing up to global concerns, including climate change, political unrest and the pandemic, post-graduation can be a tricky time.
Planning for exciting things in the future
Picture the ideal future
Ask your teen to visualise what their ideal future looks like. By encouraging them to put their worries to one side and imagine the best version of their future, you can help motivate them to stay on track.
Adapt pre-COVID plans
It’s worth asking your teen what they would have wanted to do if COVID-19 hadn’t become a thing. You may find that there are workable alternatives that can make their dream job a real possibility, such as studying online, deferring their studies, or switching their focus to a different industry.
Start small, grow big
For many teens, uncertainty has turned them off long-term planning; instead, they prefer to focus on short-term goals. Plan week by week, then month by month, expanding as things change. By helping your teen to set small goals, they can build towards a long-term endgame.
Book a career counselling session
When plans get messy, it sometimes requires a third party to cut through the mental noise and provide a little clarity. Jump online with your teen and find a careers counsellor near you, or access services like Headspace work and study.
This will provide your teen with up-to-date information on what industries are booming at any given time, while also offering advice based on your child’s strengths, results and interests.
Where young people are getting hope from
Maintaining an interest in hobbies
Never underestimate the power of the predictable! Encourage your teen to keep up their hobbies to help maintain a sense of control.
Whether it’s working out, playing video games with friends, or taking weekly guitar lessons, sticking to a regular hobby will help keep your teen on an even keel.
Talking to their peers is an incredibly powerful tool for teens, who will draw strength from the fact that other school leavers share their fears and concerns. The ReachOut forums are an excellent way for like-minded teens to engage and connect safely.
Tapping out of the news cycle
A good tip for teens and parents alike – while the news cycle remains constant, sometimes less is more. Read up here on how best to discuss social media usage with your teen.
Help your teen deal with uncertainty
Once your teen has finished school, seeing their school friends every day will be a thing of the past. Get ahead of the curve by encouraging them to stay in touch with their mates. Help them book a weekend away together, host a movie marathon, or sign up to a team sport. A tight-knit social circle will also provide space for your teen to share their thoughts and feelings with people in the same boat.
App, app and away
Future-proofing the world is right at your fingertips. Browse the app store for apps like One Small Step, which tailors programs to help lower the user’s carbon footprint. Actively using an app that they know is good for the future of the planet will help your teen feel empowered.
Sharing is caring
Sometimes, the best way to help your teen conquer uncertainty is by opening up about times in your own life when you’ve felt anxious about your future.
Sharing stories with your teen about a mid-life career change that didn’t go well, or times when you experienced self-doubt at work, will let them know that it’s okay not to have all the answers. Plus, you’re showing them that things usually work out in the end.
Talk to a professional
If you suspect that your teen requires a more experienced helping hand in order to cope with their mental health concerns, then ReachOut’s Getting Help page is a great place to begin looking. They could also talk to a mental health professional online via sites such as eheadspace, beyondblue and Lifeline.
Back to the (fun) future
Ultimately, it pays to remember that no matter how confusing things seem today, or even tomorrow, the future will figure itself out in time. And the best people to remind teens of that are people with life experience on their side.