Teenagers and the coronavirus pandemic

As the Coronavirus crisis continues, this week we received the instruction that we should all remain at home as much as possible and avoid any unnecessary travel or contact with others, even members of our family. Meanwhile, children and young people are encountering a host of new experiences as “home-schooling” begins for most children and “childcare at school” has started for a few.

The current situation is difficult for everyone, but there are particular challenges for young people in the 13 – 19 age group. Social interaction is important at all stages of development, but socialisation outside the family plays a particularly important part in adolescent development. Research suggests that adolescence is a key time for the development of regions of the brain involved in social cognition and self-awareness and that a lack of social interaction during adolescence has lasting consequences in adulthood. Lucy Thompson has reviewed the research for us and provided a summary for our Research web page. The impact and implications for our young people are described in this comment piece for the Guardian by Donna Ferguson: A survival guide for parents during family isolation

With this in mind we have gathered resources to support your young people at home, with a particular focus on teenagers:

From The Counseling Teacher: I can control/I cannot control visual

BBC Bitesize: How to look after your mental wellbeing at home

Young Minds: What to do if you’re anxious about coronavirus

Lisa Damour, writing in the New York Times reminds us that because of coronavirus, teenagers are missing out on many rites of passage. She recommends offering compassion in this piece: Quaranteenagers: Strategies for Parenting in Close Quarters.

If you are worried that your teenager is spending too much time on their phone, the British Psychological Society advises that being active on social media will help us cope with isolation: read their advice here and browse a range of recommended resources on our web page Practical Resources to Support Children and Young People

On a lighter note, perhaps the problem is that we are all suffering from Offline Friend Addiction (with thanks to @LindaKKaye, Cyber Psychologist):

Home schooling: Teacher Views

Will Tyrrell is a teacher at Silver Springs Primary Academy in Stalybridge.
As well as keeping in touch with the children working at home, a small number of staff at Silver Springs are still keeping the school open for children of key workers and vulnerable children.  The school is also still providing free school meals for collection, by delivery, and in the form of vouchers.

Will says: “Schools across the country have distributed worksheet packs, and a seemingly endless list of resources is available online, but, at this strange and unsettling time, it is the personal touch that will matter most. If children feel connected to their teachers, their classmates, and their school communities, this will empower them to learn and complete work at home. More importantly, they will understand that they are not alone at this frightening time, but that they are just as loved and interconnected as they were at school.

To that end, along with the usual reading, writing and maths, we have been devising all kinds of challenges to inspire our classes online. We have had a workout, and a fashion shoot. We have watched a documentary together and answered questions about what we learned. We have filmed ourselves reading our work aloud, and then given feedback to our friends. We have shared photos of ourselves practising mindfulness, reading in the sunshine, and doing fun activities with our families. Every child is working on a personal project, about a topic of their choice. Through it all, we have kept in touch with each other, and tried to make one another smile

Ben Pearce teaches English at Ark Globe Academy in London

"You can't use up creativity. The more you use the more you have." -- Maya Angelou

Ben says: “When schools shut their doors to most students last week the word ‘unprecedented’ enjoyed the kind of comeback that Oasis fans can only dream about. It is unreasonable to expect parents to deliver Ofsted-pleasing lessons from your front room. So, here are some alternatives to help young people keep learning whilst accepting this is not “business as usual”:

  • Audible is offering audiobooks free to students.Get children listening to a story and then set a creative task: “Choose your favourite character and write their origin story”, “Turn the story into a film script”. (and then email it to your English teacher, trust me they will appreciate it!)
  • The excellent Mr Bruff teaches daily lessons on the English GCSE through YouTube with worksheets. He even goes through the comments to give feedback!
  • If you don’t mind making a mess of your kitchen, set a Food Technology challenge: “Make a cake, but the flavour needs to be suitable for us and the cat.”

Adults are being forced to be creative in the ways they work, imagine if we had learnt to do it as a child!”

If you want to encourage your teenager’s creativity, try this idea from Nicola Morgan “The Teenage Brain Woman” who recommends writing a diary and is planning a writing competition open to all age groups. More information on her blog here.

Five Ways to Wellbeing: Connect

Rebecca Wright ([email protected])

Connecting with our friends and family is one of the most important aspects of our lives and maintains our mental health and wellbeing. For young people, connecting with their friends is even more important as peer relationships are key during adolescence. During the current pandemic, the social distancing and self-isolating guidelines mean that young people are not able to see and chat with their friends in and outside of school/college as much as they would like. Feelings of worry, frustrations and anger are normal, as we are no longer able to do the things we like. You are not alone if you are experiencing any of these feelings! I prefer to think of it as physical distancing but maintaining social connections. We are lucky enough to have technology to support our communication and connections, so take a look at suggestions relevant to current circumstances on our web page Practical Resources to Support Children and Young People

App of the week

Ruby Noble ([email protected])

Smiling Mind

It’s safe to say that this has been a very eventful week! You might feel like your mind is all over the place at the moment. If you want to take some time to disconnect from the world around you and calm your thoughts, have a look at Smiling Mind.

This is a completely free app that has been developed by psychologists and educators to help people look after their mental health using guided mindfulness meditation. It has a range of activities available, including guided breathing scripts, stress management sessions, growth mindset exercises and guides for gratitude and joy. There are a number of programmes available for children, young people and adults. Within the youth programme, sessions are ordered by age group; 122 are available for children between the ages of 3 and 12, and 139 are designed for teenagers ages 13 to 18. If you particularly enjoyed a session, click the heart symbol next to the title and add it to your favourites!

For more information on this and other Apps, take a look at our web-page: Support for adults

We have been listening to….

Beverley Tyrrell ([email protected])

Series Title: The Happiness Lab
Episode: Coronavirus Bonus – Beat Your Isolation Loneliness

This week’s podcast recommendation is part of The Happiness Lab series. It is hosted by Dr Laurie Santos, a professor of psychology at Yale University. Each episode looks into what scientific research says about how we can all live happier lives. I enjoyed its easy to access format and conversational tone. The episode I’m recommending gives tips for how we can combat loneliness and feel connected to others whilst social distancing. You can find the podcast at https://www.happinesslab.fm/coronavirus-bonus-episodes/beat-your-isolation-loneliness or most podcast apps. I particularly liked the idea it suggests of doing an activity whilst on a video call, like Pilates, or even just watching TV, so you feel like your friends and family are visiting! In our house, we have also been helped to feel that sense of connectedness this week through watching music artists live streaming gigs through Facebook from their living rooms. It might be worth checking out if artists you like are doing something similar. Today we found out that The National Theatre are broadcasting plays through YouTube, so are planning on looking into those as well.    

You might have missed...

On 24th March Vicky Ford MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Children and Families published an open letter for children and young people with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities and their parents and carers. You can download the letter here.

 Away from the virus

This week’s heart-warming animal story sourced by Lucy Thompson ([email protected])

A dog dubbed ‘Britain’s loneliest dog’ finally found a home this week, having been at Last Chance Animal Rescue in Edenbridge, Kent, for more than 10 years. Bess found her forever home after staff launched a viral campaign focussing on her, which soon led to offers from as far as the US. A spokesperson from the shelter said: “It was very emotional for everyone as she set off to her new life, but also very rewarding, as a loving home is what we want for all our dogs, and finally we have one for our Bess. Thank you to everyone who offered Bess a home.”