6 minute read
13 May 2020
11:21 am

Parenting teenagers during lockdown: how to minimise the damage


Children are left with no choice but to spend the lockdown period in environments that are both physically and emotionally detrimental to them.

Lockdown for teenagers (and those at home with them) may be a physical, psychological and emotional trap with no sign of imminent escape

A relative of mine told me of a phone call he had received from his child’s friend’s father. “The 14-year-old has run away from home and the father is currently at the police station to open a docket, so he called to find out if he is with us, or if he had called Imbah (not the real name of his son)”, He told me in a depressed tone.

My relative confirmed that he has met this boy and his parents a few times before and added that the boy looked respectful and his father calm and collected. His mother (who they have met just twice), spends time in Europe where she works. Instantly, I juggled my mind to understand what must have prompted a respectable child to run away from home.

Is it just the fact that his father had beaten him as my relative further explained? Well, this is possible. But what could be more of a possibility, is that the reason for which he was beaten could be the reason why he left home – not the beating itself.

This conversation with my relative really evoked a lot of fear in me as I know that many children are left with no choice but to spend the lockdown period in environments that are both physically and emotionally detrimental to them.

As parents and adult caregivers, we might consciously or not, put our children through physical, sexual, emotional abuse or neglect. Teens experience a lot of abuse that occurs between themselves as well. Suicidal thoughts, threats, and attempts may occur as a result of external relationships with peers, teachers and coaches. As a result of this overbearing pressure that adds to the changes in their bodies that they cannot comprehend, moodiness and anger in adolescence is common.

As these children struggle to find identities independent from their parents, or sometimes to align with their friends’ identities, they drift away both physically and psychologically from parents and adult caregivers. Unfortunately, this drift and show of independence, known as “search for self” leave parents frustrated. The end result for both is often the exchange of anger.

Apart from using communication to escape abuse as stated in a previous article: Use Family Communication as a Tool Against Abuse During the Covid-19 Lockdown, we could also do the following;

  • Accept that our children are growing and will become independent
  • Do much to understand our teenager by learning how children behave in certain stages
  • Set realistic expectations for them and ourselves too, and be reasonable if teens fall short
  • Remember our days as teens
  • Keep them both physically and mental healthy by making sure that they eat, play/exercise and sleep
  • Know that neglecting a teenager’s needs is an abuse and commit to meet their needs
  • Try to find out what or who is tearing them, or you apart
  • Find out if they, or even you, suffer from alcohol and/or drug problems or any addiction and get help
  • Ensure teens are not left alone with an alcoholic or drug user
  • Be kind in how you speak to teenagers because words leave emotional scars that are lifelong,
  • Make sure that from when they are young, you set clear rules and modify them as they grow. Teach children accountability and revise these as they grow
  • Discipline your children more by giving them powers to be independent

Whatever you do, avoid physical punishment. If you have given them this when they were young, start by reducing and eventually eliminate it

  • Do not discipline a teenager unless you are disciplined or in full control of yourself
  • Always stop and talk to yourself. If this does not help, talk to or text someone else
  • Ask yourself if you are being realistic
  • If you cannot control yourself and are worried that you may hit your teenager, call a child abuse prevention hotline,
  • Do you know that teenagers can hit back? Just this thought should stop you from hitting them
  • Put in the most effort in making your home a violence-free zone. Speak to your partner and limit exposure to violence to you and your children from when they are young
  • If you are violent, work on yourself. If your partner or your child is, help them work on themselves
  • If you are abusive or had the tendency of abuse before becoming a parent, enroll in a support programme for parents
  • Learn to take regular breaks from your teenager even in the lockdown. Just walk out of a room, read a book, browse social media, or reach for water
  • Listen more and talk less
  • If it still gets hard to resist abuse, become an advocate against abuse. Speaking out frequently against child abuse is in itself a therapy and treatment

As you work on yourself, do not leave your teen behind

Subtly introduce them to some of the above tactics that are age related without making them feel like they are troublesome children. A self-disciplined child releases you from the stress of parenting teens full-time.

Not all parents are lucky enough like the above-mentioned parents to find their child. Still, finding your child after they run-away, or rescuing them from your abusive self is only a piece of what brings peace of mind. Finding them unharmed and undestroyed is what brings peace, and many may not have their teens back physically, sexually and/or, emotionally unharmed and undestroyed by the outside world that opened up for them when their parents and caregivers closed up.

Cut off the signs of disrespect very early in children by treating them in a friendly manner, but not as your friend. It is important for both parents to be aligned in their parenting as teenagers play psychological tricks on parents, and best of all, adults have to be respectful in how they speak to, behave towards and even discipline their teens.

Always remember that as a family psychologist, you have to help your teen to deal with their mental and physical health. Commit to not let your children stay under the same roof with an abusive adult. Help them to express their emotions. Do not push them away from home with your words, actions and behaviours. Respect is two ways and remains two ways.

About the author

Victorine Mbong Shu has been in education and training since 2002. She is the CEO of Profounder Intelligence Management Services, a Peak Performance Authority Coach, Editor, Publisher, Researcher, Transformational Speaker, Material Developer, Facilitator, Assessor and Moderator. She is the Co-owner of Profound Conference Centre in Bramley-JHB. Victorine and Dr. Fru are raising four bubbly children, including Africa’s youngest international multiple award-winning bestselling author of chapter books, 13-year-old Stacey Fru. A PhD fellow in Communications herself, Victorine is a respectable involved parenting conversationalist. She is a BrandSA ambassador and award-winning author of the following books:

· ‘Stop Complaining! and Bring Back Involved Parenting, 2016’
· ‘Trapped in our shadows, 2017’
· ‘Proven habits for financial freedom, 2018’
· ‘S’EX, 2018’
· ‘Not too late: Bring Back Involved Parenting, 2020’

Follow her on all social media – @Mbongshu

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