Photo: Tonya Hester
Has lockdown-enforced togetherness got EVERYONE in your home rolling their eyes? You’re not alone. The teenage years are a challenge for all concerned, and Covid-related restrictions on movement are beautifully calculated to bring things to boiling point at times. Whether you’re a parent or a teen, whether you’re totally freaking out or would just welcome a few new tips, we’ve got a smorgasbord of support for you here. Capetonian KELLY PLUKE tells us what got her through her teen stress, NANINE STEENKAMP asks families about what gets or got them through the teen season, and a psychologist offers professional advice. Finally, we suggest a few organisations and activities that throw teens a lifeline 🙂
Senior admin clerk Avril Samuels and her son Jason (post graduate electricity student, now 27), currently in lockdown in Cloetesville, look back to their explosive days
Jason and Avril Samuels: ‘We had strong tantrums in our household’
JASON: ‘I’d recommend dealing with conflict early on and head on! It took a while to learn that. Initially, I’d bottle things up until everything exploded. I did this because I didn’t want to deal with parental conflict. A big turning point in our relationship came when I cried in my dad’s arms after unbottling my emotions and lashing out at him. I realised I could go to him to resolve things, particularly conflict.
During my teenage years I mainly had relationships with the people at my school. We’ d gather at a friend’s house around a game, play sports in the road, occasionally have sleepovers. I think I was guarded against the negatives of peer pressure by my friends. I was surrounded my people looking out for me, and thank God for that.’
AVRIL: ‘The teen years are a very difficult and uncertain period: at times we had strong teen tantrums in our household! But I found that good, regular communication between adults and children usually established better behaviour. Respect is mutual: in order to get, you must give. Often, a time out was needed, giving us parents a chance to figure out what triggered the outburst. You can even try to record the outburst and play it back to your teen and observe the reaction.
Although Jason’s now older, given that we are all together in lockdown, respect is very important. I think we need regularly to remind each other that we’re in this together and it’s not easy for any of us. Even our dogs can pick up the difference! It’s important to greet one another: good morning and good night are important passwords in our home!
The Loubser family lives in Stellenbosch. Warren is general manager of an ISP company, Lynn is a former travel agent. They have two daughters, Hannah (17) and Rebekah (15), whom Lynn currently homeschools
The Loubsers: ‘At times we don’t speak the same language!’
LYNN: ‘It’s always a tightrope for me to negotiate boundaries with my daughters. I think you have to appear reasonable, remain flexible, have conversations rather than give lectures and keep a sense of humour. I try to have an ear to listen rather than jumping in and criticising straight away! I relate to these words from Skydiving for Parents by homeschooling mom and blogger Julie Forsythe: Most of the time, I would swear we don’t speak the same language, and yet there is a communication that goes through to the heart. She is still growing and changing – yet even though she thinks herself quite sophisticated and grown up, when things are hard, and the tears start to fall, she still needs me to hold her while she cries.
WARREN: ‘Setting time aside to communicate, I believe, is so important. It puts value on the person who’s in distress. I try to maintain an open relationship with my daughters, to sit down with them and encourage them to communicate when there’s a disagreement.’
HANNAH: ‘There’s always pressure to perform and conform, there’s always comparison and competition – it’s very hard not to be drawn in! Being able to talk to my parents and voice my concerns is important to me. I would say that getting another perspective is always good.’
Meet a South African blended family! Playgroup teacher CAROL and her husband Mike have a mixture of five biological and adopted daughters 🙂
‘I recommend exercise,’ says Christy, eldest of five daughters. (Left to right): mother Carol, father Mike, Rosalie, Christy, Mikayla (below Christy), Lindy, Nikita (below Lindy)
CHRISTY (now 26): ‘I’m actually grateful for the discipline my parents instilled, it didn’t hinder my relationship with them and it remains good today. Focusing on goals helped me tackle peer pressure. My parents didn’t force anything on me, I chose what I wanted to be involved in, and I’m grateful to have had that inner self-motivation. As a dietician, I recommend exercise to cope with teen stress, it releases happy hormones, making us feel good about ourselves and our bodies. Healthy eating is important too: it boosts body image, a huge factor for teenagers.’
CAROL: ‘I’ve tried to bring up my children to know and understand what I believe to be God’s way of living. I’ve taught them to be accountable and prove their trustworthiness. As they go through their teen years and prove trustworthy, I increasingly allow them to make their own decisions, and slowly release them to be independent.’
Johannesburg marketing director Denise van der Walt with her post-graduate law student daughter Denisha
Denisha Padachey and Denise van der Walt: ‘We both have very strong opinions’
DENISE: ‘I taught Denisha to handle her stress by encouraging her to always speak freely to me when things were difficult for her. We both have very strong opinions and do argue sometimes but I encouraged her never to let the sun set on our anger, and that saying I’m sorry is not a sign of weakness, but strength. This, along with the good morals and values that she was drawn to, definitely made it easier to get through those times.’
DENISHA (now 23): ‘Having a mom who allowed me to vent and approach her with anything helped me deal with my stress. She never diminished how I felt, even if she thought it wasn’t necessarily a stressful situation. I think the values she taught helped me avoid drastic conflict with my parents in my teenage years.’
The Padiachy family hail from Robertson. Mother Leone is a primary school teacher, father Thamby is retired. They have two children whose teen years are now quite distant: Thamlynne (32) and Vibert (29)
Above: The Padiachys in their teen season a few years ago (left to right): father Thamby, mother Leone, Vibert and his sister, Thamlynne | Below: Vibert (right) with members of the running group he started
LEONE: ‘Let your teen tell you what they think is the right thing to do and show appreciation where it’s warranted. But I also recommend being clear, firm and speaking to the point regarding what you want your child to do. Explain the difference between right and wrong and tell them that if they overstep your boundaries, there’ll be consequences!’
VIBERT: ‘My mom had a thing on the back of the bathroom door, saying: Although you may ask questions, you may never question my authority. So I knew the authority that she had. Peer pressure was quite difficult. Most of my friends were rugby players and I usually did whatever they did but there were certain things that I didn’t do, like smoking, because I was big into sports and didn’t do anything that could damage my performance.’
CAPE TOWN’S KELLY PLUKE has grown out of her teen years now but remembers them well (as well as the irrational dislike of peas that accompanied them).
She writes: ‘Call me a drama queen but I used to think that to find inner peace I needed to run away to a desert island, far away from the city’s hustle and bustle, and dress in nothing but white linen. Obviously, ridiculous. But so many things can wrack a teen’s nerves. An obvious is schoolwork and exams. School life in the 21st century has almost become a full-time job, not to mention getting home and having to do homework as well! I once landed up in hospital from the stress of a maths exam!
Stress also comes from worrying. We often crumble while trying to reach goals and expectations that are often unreachable and sometimes unimportant. These expectations can be set by teachers, parents, peers and even ourselves. Time (or lack of it) can cause major strain. Teachers pile on the work when it comes to exams because deadlines have to be met. What they don’t realise is, not everyone can cope under pressure. Even being part of a group of friends can be stressful at times, especially when teens don’t know where they stand or fit in. I once became very withdrawn when a friend and I had an argument. Being kept out of the loop is SOOOO heart-wrenching’.
‘Do something to help you realise your importance on earth’, says ex-teen Kelly Pluke, now a high school English teacher
What helped me put stress in its place: Kelly’s stressbusters
IF YOU FEEL TOO MUCH IS EXPECTED OF YOU, SPEAK OUT AND SET PRACTICAL GOALS Make people around you aware of your strengths and weaknesses so they know what to expect from you, especially when it comes to parents. This stops you being pressurised into what’s beyond you. Believe it or not, parents can actually help when it comes to dealing with tension as they’ve had more experience of it. Speak up! Let them know how you’re feeling. They may surprise you and take pity on you
GETTING INVOLVED IN SOMETHING WORTHWHILE THAT WILL BENEFIT SOMEONE APART FROM YOURSELF CAN HELP Something like community work can make you realise your importance on earth, and give you a sense of accomplishment
OK THIS IS A GROAN BUT PLANNING AND FORWARD-THINKING REALLY IS KEY For schoolwork, diarising everything gives you time for all your tasks. Make sure you leave space for rest and fun breaks – essential for a clear mind, so you can work to the best of your ability
FRIENDSHIP ISSUES CAN BE TRICKY Pride can get in the way and you end up losing a friend over a silly argument. Try making a joke out of it. If you have to make the first move towards reconciliation, say something like, ‘Are we really gonna fight all summer while the sun has so much baking to do?’ Most likely your friend will find it funny and you will both have a good laugh over it in the future. If it’s something quite serious, sit down and talk it through
YOUR BODY NEEDS TO RELAAAAX EVERY NOW AND THEN! The Bible says that in repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength. So chill and release some of the pressure from your day!
Helpful contacts & home-based suggestions for times of lockdown or restriction
VOLUNTEER with an organisation helping those at risk amid Covid-19, such as helping with the sewing of masks. Watch a tutorial here
TOOLS FOR FUN CONVERSATIONS Most teens enjoy giving their opinions and once they are more relaxed, talking about themselves 🙂 Get some ideas here
ONLINE YOUTH GROUPS & COURSES If you’re a teen looking for meaning and would like to connect with new (to you) people your age, try Hillsong Church’s Youth Online: Shine (for young women) and Strength (for young men), available here
TEEN EXPERTISE Teens, how about sharing your knowledge with the oldies? Teach them something like setting up a Zoom meeting with their friends!
GET TO KNOW EACH OTHER A LITTLE DIFFERENTLY Set up fun, personal online quizzes and compete to find out who knows who in the family best!
What’s the advice of counselling psychologist Carien de Klerk, mother of three teenager boys and director of Good Hope Psychological Services in Paarl?
ADVICE FOR TEENS It’s not good to keep it all in. It can be hard to talk about emotions when you’re feeling confused, but do talk to someone you can trust, especially when it comes to stress or anxiety. Otherwise this snowballs, and avoiding it becomes a bad habit. Try also to put yourself in someone else’s shoes from time to time, see things from other people’s perspectives, hard as it may be to do.
When to get professional help? If your anxiety, stress or depression start to disable your functionality, for example feeling unable to complete school work or being able to live your life as normal due to these symptoms. Search online for a psychologist, counsellor or life coach in your area. Make sure this person is a registered professional.
ADVICE FOR PARENTS The best thing you can do is to understand how teens develop psychologically. It’s normal for them to be self-absorbed or behave irrationally, think that whatever you do and say is wrong, that you’re a loser, you know nothing and they know everything, to take part in risky activities, appear to reject logic, overreact, seem unmotivated and bored! Sometimes parents think, “It’s only my child who is so disrespectful or behaves in this way” Understand that while you used to be perfect to them, their attention has now shifted to their peers. They can’t remain an imprint of you, they have to establish their own identity.
Teenagers experience way more pressure than we realise. They’re bombarded with information on social media and are constantly comparing themselves to others. Rather than criticising your children, encourage them while maintaining boundaries. It’s tricky: have self-compassion, especially moms! Be careful not to project your own anxiety about these uncertain times of coronavirus onto your children, including our schools catching up with the syllabus. Rather use this time to be curious about who they are and build relationship: get to know each other!