woman sitting on couch smiling at son

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has disrupted all of our lives. Parenting a teenager can be challenging at the best of times, but for some, this upheaval in our social, work and school life may make things even more difficult.

While you’re trying to support your teen through all the changes, it’s easy to forget to maintain wellbeing. However, by prioritising your own wellbeing, you’ll feel better and be more able to support your teen. It's okay if you don't have the opportunity to do all of these - even the slightest change can help!


Pay attention to the basics

Check in with the basics every day: prioritise getting enough sleep, eating nutritious and regular meals, and moving your body every day. If you’re struggling with how to keep active when physically distancing, here are a few suggestions:

  • Yoga with Adrienne is a well-loved yoga channel. Adrienne is quirky and down-to-earth, and offers yoga classes lasting from five minutes through to an hour.
  • Nike Training Club offers heaps of free workouts you can do from home, as well as wellness and nutrition guidance from experts.
  • Seven – 7 Minute Workout app (iOS and Android). These seven-minute workouts are scientifically designed to provide the maximum benefit in the shortest amount of time.

These are just three ideas. Do whatever works for you. You might decide to go for a walk or run outside and observe your surroundings, if that's available to you.

Each day, check how you’re doing, by writing down how many hours of sleep you got, what you ate and the ways you were physically active. Review these areas at the end of the week and see if anything needs tweaking.


Do things that make you feel good

It might feel like you’re in survival mode at the moment, but doing things that feel good can help top up your physical, mental and emotional energy. Try including something pleasurable in your regular daily routine, even if it’s just for two minutes. Here are some ideas for things you can do by yourself or with other family members:

  • By yourself: Anything you regularly do for self-care, such as reading, listening to your favourite song, or working on your car. If you don’t have a regular routine, take our quiz to find out what kind of self-care is right for you.
  • With your family: Maybe it’s getting thrashed in video games by your teens, sitting down for a meal with no devices, or watching trashy TV together – anything that helps the family to de-stress together will make for a calmer household.

If you feel good, you’ll be a more engaged and more effective parent during these tough times.


Put boundaries in place

Setting boundaries is important for both your and your teen’s wellbeing. If the whole family is suddenly at home due to everyone’s routines being disrupted, boundaries will become even more important. Read more about setting realistic boundaries with your teen here.

Some examples of boundaries you might want to set include:

  • where/when your teen is allowed to go out of the house at this time
  • what kind of routine you expect your teen to follow
  • times when you’ll be working/doing chores, and times when you are available to chat.

Before you have a discussion with your teen, consider:

  • What are the most important boundaries?
  • What boundaries are negotiable, and which are not?
  • What kinds of consequences are you comfortable with?

Have a think about how you expect your teen to behave, and then communicate this to them clearly and calmly. It may help to link these new rules to your family’s values. For example: ‘We’re all staying home so that we can reduce Nanna’s risk of contracting COVID-19.’


Stay in touch with supports

Making time to connect with friends and family is essential for your wellbeing – we may be physically distant, but we don’t have to be socially distant. Each day, ask yourself: ‘Who am I checking in on or connecting with today?’ Make time for a cuppa or a meal with a family member you live with, and use it as a special time for connection. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by all the COVID-19 talk, establish beforehand that you’ll have a ‘COVID-19 free zone’ for that period of time.

It’s also important to connect with people outside of the house, so try video chatting (e.g. using FaceTime, Zoom, Google Hangouts or Skype), calling or messaging a friend every day or so. Tell them how you’re going and check in with how they are, too.


Don’t try to be perfect

It’s tempting to try and ‘do it all’ and keep everything running exactly as usual. But the reality is: this is not a normal situation.

Work out what the essentials are in terms of running the house and helping your teen to stick with a routine and stay well. Put aside all non-essential tasks and give yourself a breather every now and then.


Have a plan if you’re working from home

If you’re now working from home, chances are you’re facing a whole range of new challenges. The ReachOut team have recently (temporarily) transitioned to working from home, so we asked those staff who are parents for their top tips:

  • ‘Consider work priorities – what can be simplified, minimised or simply shelved.’
  • ‘Make a routine. Put the most important parts first: food, family, exercise. Priority one is a stable home environment and then add time slots for what you can reasonably achieve from your work priorities.’
  • ‘Try to have designated work spaces as much as possible so that when you’re in that space, your teen will know you’re “at work”.’
  • ‘Going for a walk together at lunchtime helps a lot to get out of the house and have some fresh air, exercise and chatting time.’
  • ‘Have realistic expectations! We have definitely relaxed screen time rules and have emphasised that we know how important it is for them to stay in contact with their friends.’
  • ‘We agreed that time between 9 and 3 was like a normal school day, and set phone alarms to go off at recess and lunchtime just like the bells do. We replaced commuting time with “family time” and all went for a walk at 8 am out into the world to get fresh air and some movement in our lives.’
  • ‘For me while working from home, headphones are key. If I’m wearing them, it’s a signal to my kids to be respectful and not start up a conversation or make heaps of noise. When they’re off, I’m open to conversation and questions.’
  • ‘Be realistic and kind to yourself. You can't achieve the same amount of work with the kids at home as you can when you are by yourself.’

Go easy on yourself

There’s no doubt that these are tough times to be parenting a teenager. Recognise everything you are doing to create a stable home environment, and try not to focus on the areas that aren’t operating as well as usual. You’re doing the best you can – give yourself props for that.

You could try writing down three things you did well (or just did) each day.


Reach out for support

As we’ve never dealt with something like this before, it may feel overwhelming, even if you’ve been trying to take care of your wellbeing. As most people will be physically distancing or self-isolating, telephone and online services are great options.

Jump on to the ReachOut Parents Forums to connect safely with other parents and learn from them how they’re managing the stress of parenting teens through this challenging time.

You can also access our ReachOut Parents free One-on-One Support program over the phone and online. You’ll be able to connect with an experienced family professional who will listen, guide you through identifying your specific challenges, suggest practical strategies you can try and provide evidence-based resources.

Lifeline (13 11 14) and Parentline can be accessed for phone and online counselling, with Lifeline phone counsellors on call from 7 pm to midnight, and Kids Helpline available 24/7. If it’s available to you, you could consider seeing your GP or mental health professional for extra help (but make sure to follow the advice of Healthdirect if you’re showing symptoms or are in self-isolation). A number of mental health support services are now offering a service using video-conferencing software.

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Page last review by ReachOut Parents Clinical Advisory Group on