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Helping teens cope with change

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Helping teens cope with change

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The first half of 2020 has been full of some enormous changes for everyone, and with recent news coming out about a new lockdown in Victoria, we know that a lot of parents will be having to help their kids cope with some big and unexpected changes, as well as trying to cope themselves. 


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We thought this could be a good time to share some tips from ReachOut Parents about helping your teens cope with change, and we'd love to hear from you about how you and your family are going at the moment, and what you've found helpful helping your teens cope with change. 


During times of change, teenagers can experience a range of emotions that they may not know how to deal with. As parents, we can help them to understand how to manage their feelings of sadness, anger or anxiety when life changes in unexpected ways. When teens understand that these feelings are as normal a part of life as being happy, they are better able to deal with stressful events, such as when a relationship breaks down, or they lose a loved one, a pet or a job.

Why is it important to talk about what’s changed?

Your teenager needs to know that challenging situations might make you feel upset and angry, too, but that you (and they) can handle these strong emotions. Acknowledging and talking about these feelings shows your teen that it’s okay to feel this way.

Negative emotions may not disappear overnight, but talking about things will help your teen to process and accept what’s happened. Teenagers need to be reminded that change is a normal part of life, and that it can help us to develop strengths such as courage, flexibility and resilience. You can also help your teenager feel like they’re not alone and reassure them that this, too, will pass.

Try one of these conversation starters:


  • You’ve had a rough time recently. How are you feeling?
  • It’s hard to go through a break-up/lose someone/etc. How are you feeling about it?
  • I’ve found what’s happened recently super hard and have been feeling weird about it. What about you?

Help your teen figure out what they can and can’t control

When something unexpected or unwanted happens, it’s easy to get stuck feeling sad, angry or out of control. A helpful way for your teen to cope is to learn how to figure out what they can and can’t control. This will help reassure them that they’re not powerless and give them something positive to focus on.

Work with your teen to break down what’s happened. For example:


  • What we can’t control: losing a loved one; natural disasters; pandemics; how someone has treated us; having a bad day.
  • What we can control: how we treat other people; what activities we do the next day; what goals we have; who we spend time with; how hard we try to do the best we can.

Acceptance of challenging events

Sometimes, it takes a while to accept hard events that we have no control over, but acceptance will help us to move on. The feelings of hurt, anger and frustration may return every now and then. Remind your teen not to be too hard on themselves, because this reaction is normal and to be expected. Teach them to accept those feelings and to acknowledge that today is a bad day. But also remind them that they’ve had good days and they’ll have them again. You can help your teen to accept the changes in their lives by guiding them to identify the positive things that are happening for them.

By accepting what’s not in their control, your teen isn’t giving it a big thumbs-up; they’re just choosing not to see themselves as a ‘victim’ of what’s happened. They’ll then feel more empowered and able to focus on positive things.

Try asking your teenager:


  • Life has been a bit hard for you this week/month. What are some things that have gone well?
  • Let’s talk about another time in your life when things felt really hard. What are some of the things that also happened at that time that made you feel good?

What can your teen do next?

Your teen might need help with developing a response to the changes that have occurred in their life. It might mean a new daily routine, or finding time in their existing schedule for an activity that’s enjoyable or will give them new opportunities for personal development. Talk with your teen about activities they find relaxing and rewarding. This could include exercise, art or music, or getting involved in the community by volunteering.


If you'd like to read more, you can check out the rest of the article here 


How have you and your family been coping with recent changes? Have you been impacted about recent changes in Victoria? What have you found helpful in helping your teens to cope with change?