No, you can't see your friends: Getting teens to accept Covid-19 restrictions

  • Family
  • Tuesday, 14 Apr 2020

For adolescents, particularly in puberty, friends are often more important than family members. Photo: Axel Bueckert/

For adolescents, particularly in puberty, friends are often more important than family members. Since they strongly identify with their social circle, they can take coronavirus stay-at-home orders and restrictions on contact with other people as an infringement of their very identity.

”This stokes frustration and anger that they usually take out on their blameless parents and siblings, ” says Kira Liebmann, a family coach who specialises in adolescents.

How can teenagers be made to accept that they can’t see their friends during the coronavirus pandemic?

”Pubescent adolescents are hard to reach with rational arguments, ” remarks Liebmann, who suggests using emotional arguments instead.

A typical rational argument, she explains, would be something like: ”We’ve got to stay at home so that fewer people become infected and our health-care system isn’t overwhelmed.” But while adolescents understand the words, many fail to be moved by the message, Liebmann says.

Appealing to their emotions can be more effective. You might, for example, conjure up an image of Smarties, a popular brand of varicoloured, candy-coated chocolates.

”Imagine having 100 Smarties in front of you, five of which are poisoned. How many Smarties will you eat? We don’t know which Smarties we happen to be at the moment, so we’re staying at home for the time being.”

Parents should also allow teens sufficient opportunity to be by themselves, even though living conditions may be cramped.

”Make sure to give them some latitude, such as study-free weekends. Teenagers need space and time for themselves, ” Liebmann says.

She advises parents to make time for adolescents too, and to get involved in their world.

”How about staging a photography contest judged by an independent jury? Or you could shoot a YouTube video together.”

Another idea, Liebmann says, is to let your teen or teens choose and prepare the family meals one day a week. Or you could concoct practical jokes together to play on other family members.

”Whatever strengthens the sense of family unity goes.” – dpa

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