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Ask the expert: How can I realistically get my kids to use their time better over the next few months?

A psychologist suggests how parents can help teens adopt a useful routine during lockdown, while stressing more screen time and sleep is normal

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'Decide together how they can change their days so they're using their time more productively, but also feel success in themselves. Note with them how hard this all is and how you recognise the importance of their sense of freedom and friendships, too'

'Decide together how they can change their days so they're using their time more productively, but also feel success in themselves. Note with them how hard this all is and how you recognise the importance of their sense of freedom and friendships, too'

'Decide together how they can change their days so they're using their time more productively, but also feel success in themselves. Note with them how hard this all is and how you recognise the importance of their sense of freedom and friendships, too'

Q. My teenage children don't go back to school till September, and while they've reluctantly done some schoolwork at home, they're mostly just getting up late, playing computer games and drifting. How can I realistically get them to use their time better over the next few months?

A. Hannah Abrahams, leading educational and child psychologist on the Zoono Family Panel, says: "Young people of all ages have spent extended time at home recently, often navigating the stress and uncertainty lockdown has brought. It's therefore okay that they may have slipped out of their normal routine and understandable if your family has adopted a more laid-back approach.

"For families with teens, you may have noticed significant changes in your child's sleep patterns. While lockdown may have sent them into a tailspin, there's also a biochemical and hormonal reason why this is happening. Young people's circadian rhythms go through tremendous transitions during adolescence. Naturally, they're programmed to wake and sleep later. While this might be frustrating, don't let it worry you.

"The amount of time in front of a screen may also have shot up and that's okay too. Adolescents will often follow their peers, so it's important they feel socially connected. By allowing them to talk to their friends, hopefully they'll feel less anxious about returning to school when the time comes. They'll also feel part of a shared narrative.

"If you're still concerned, talk to them about your expectations of how their daily routine should look over the coming weeks. Discuss clear boundaries, but also ensure your child feels listened to during this negotiation; the feeling of being autonomous and validated, both as a teen and especially during lockdown, is vital.

"Decide together how they can change their days so they're using their time more productively, but also feel success in themselves. Note with them how hard this all is and how you recognise the importance of their sense of freedom and friendships, too.

"Deciding on a way forward together is a much more positive approach than nagging and is more likely to lead to a solution that suits you and your teenager. It's important to remember they too are very much in unchartered territory."

Belfast Telegraph