5 Ways To Help A Quaranteenager Priory Expert Offers Advice To Parents Of Teenagers In Lockdown

5 ways to help a “quaranteenager”: Priory expert offers advice to parents of teenagers in lockdown

  • Thousands of teenagers are not returning to school this academic year

  • Many are worried about their GCSEs, and future job prospects

  • Some teenagers are concerned about their friendships, and how they will keep socially distanced

  • Priory expert Dr Hayley van Zwanenberg talks about the reassuring conversations parents can have with their teenagers NOW

The lockdown has been especially tough on teenagers – deprived of their friends, unsure about their exams, worried about job prospects in a post-pandemic economy.

For many, who thrive on predictability and routine, and who need constant reassurance as they grow in emotional maturity and approach adulthood, it doesn’t look good; sometimes it looks overwhelming.

Priory child and adolescent psychiatrist Dr Hayley van Zwanenberg says there is “lots of anxiety” among teenagers right now, but parents can take significant steps to help them.

“Many teens are also dealing with illness, or loss of income within their families. For those who may already have struggled with anxiety or depression, the pandemic has disrupted treatment. The lack of structure has also posed huge challenges for teenagers who did not have mental health issues before. Some may be depressed as well as anxious, and turned, or returned, to self-harming.”

Dr van Zwanenberg’s top five tips:


“The most important thing is to reassure your teenager that they will cope with the changes. It is really good to have more practice with change, as everyone faces change throughout their lives. Those who handle it best – who can ‘go with the flow’ - will often save themselves a lot of unhappiness and heartache.


“There is no point in spending time worrying about things we cannot change.  We know this as adults, or should do, but children really struggle with this concept. So if a teenager finds themselves doing this, they need to jump off the repetitive loop, the ‘thought train’ that is going round and round the rickety track in their head, and distract themselves.  To truly distract themselves, teenagers need to completely fill their minds with something else - talk with a parent, ring a friend (talk not text), engage in a hobby or skill. I discuss ‘mindfulness’ and how important it is to engage in an activity and just focus on that activity while doing it, and not let thoughts from the past, or worry about the future, distract them or change their focus or emotions.


“No one can predict the future and if teenagers try, they will often just put an anxious or negative spin on it to ‘feed’ their worry. Discuss with them how they can prepare themselves for their future, rather than worry about it.  This could include, for example, starting to read books for their ‘A’ Levels, learning to touch type, doing some fund raising or volunteering to enhance their CV, and keeping themselves healthy through exercise. You could talk to your teen about important factors employers look for other than academic grades such as team working, good communication skills, knowing your own strengths and weaknesses, hard work and how your teen can demonstrate those good qualities.


“I also advise young people to think of something they have in common with a friend.  It might be they are going on to do the same ‘A’ Levels, it might be that they both like exercise or it could be that they both feel quite bored.  I suggest they engage with a friend over a video call and do the activity they have in common together. For example, if they both like exercise, they may want to take it in turns each week to run a HIT session that they both do.  If they are both bored, they could discuss a new skill they could learn together, such as sign language, Spanish or cooking. Doing an activity together tends to lead to enjoyment and laughter.


“Exercise and getting outdoors is crucial. Discuss the importance of going out of the house for daily exercise and contacting someone outside their household daily so that they are practising some social skills for when lockdown eases and social contact occurs face-to-face again.  I advise teens to smile at strangers when they see them on a walk, to practice eye contact and eventually to make a comment such as “Isn’t it a lovely day”, or even just “hello”.  This exposure is small but it helps prevent total avoidance of social contact, and will aid in reducing anxiety regarding this.”

Dr van Zwanenberg adds; “Yes, the new normal will be a challenge. But young people are often very good at challenges, even those who don’t think they are. Tell them change is difficult for so many people, but your teen will not be doing it alone because you and all those around them who love them will be there to support them, verbally, emotionally – and as parents, physically, with lots of extra hugs if they want them.”


Contact: [email protected]


About Priory and MEDIAN

About Priory

Priory is the UK’s leading independent provider of mental health services. We treat more than 70 conditions, including depression, anxiety, addictions and eating disorders, as well as children’s mental health, across our nationwide network of sites. We also support autistic adults and adults with a learning disability, Prader-Willi Syndrome and brain injuries, as well as older people, within our specialist residential care and supported living facilities – helping as many people as possible to live their lives.

Priory is part of the MEDIAN Group, one of Europe’s leading providers of high quality mental health and rehabilitation services. The MEDIAN Group comprises 290 facilities with 5,000 beds caring for 28,000 people in the UK, 120 facilities with 20,000 beds caring for around 250,000 patients in Germany, and 15 facilities with 2,000 beds caring for 13,000 people in Spain, with more than 29,000 employees overall.

Need more information?

Email the press office at: [email protected]