A mentor recently told me that it’s as if what’s happening right now is the equivalent of Mother Nature sending us to our rooms to think about our bad behaviour, with the hope we’ll be let out knowing what needs to change.

It goes without saying that the past 12 months have been a particularly challenging time for families, with so many schools across the country having been forced to close and shift to remote learning. This means that hundreds of thousands of families are living, working and learning all in the same home – an unprecedented stress.

In times of crisis, we must focus on what we can control. Preventative mental health and emotional intelligence charity, The Man Cave, has worked with close to 20,000 teenage boys across the country helping them process their emotions and experiences, to improve their sense of self and their relationship skills, resulting in better communities for all.

At the beginning of the pandemic, our research showed that 40 per cent of the young men we worked with were struggling during “iso” and finding it hard to cope. With another indefinite period of remote learning underway amid NSW’s rampant second lockdown, we are working with schools, parents and the young men themselves to offer strategies for coping with the isolation, added pressure and angst created by such upheaval.

Here are some insights we’ve picked up from working with thousands of teenage boys to help them process this experience and create positive behaviour change:

  •  Listening and sharing stories

In my experience, often all young men want is to be shown they matter. Create time and space to authentically listen to and hear what is really going on. Listen without trying to problem-solve or fix things, and instead empower them to feel seen and heard. Where relevant, share your experiences that may have been similar, and they can take what they need and deal with it in their own way.

  • Give them space

Young men want the freedom to do and be who they want to be, and this is being challenged more than ever now they are confined to the home. Respect their privacy and their space – their room might be their ‘Man Cave’ in the house, in which they can process their emotions and experiences and connect with mates via technology.

  • Responsibility

As boys transition into young adulthood, they want to be treated as adults, but often feel they are still treated as children. Consider how you can increase their privileges and freedoms in line with calling upon them to increase their responsibility around the house.

  • Create family time and agreements

Having dedicated family time, such as during dinner or on regular walks, in which devices are left aside and authentic conversations are had, is a great way of fostering connection and giving teenage boys a space to be heard. Developing a plan of action as a family, such as a family agreement you can hold each other accountable to, is also a great way to set up boundaries and expectations while managing conflict during lockdown.

  • And finally… put your own mask on first

Airlines tell us before we take off that, in case of an emergency, you should put your own mask on before helping others. It’s good advice! As caregivers of young people, if we are not able to support ourselves, then we can’t support them. Follow your own self-care practices, adhere to your personal boundaries and find ways to recharge your own batteries.


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