Supporting young people’s mental health during the pandemic

Supporting young people’s mental health during the pandemic

Friday, 17 September 2021

Through Jigsaw’s work with young people, we are continuously reminded of the challenges parents face, and their desire to help.

It is no easy feat being a parent. The biggest issues right now are dealing with the threat of lockdown, ongoing restrictions, and the uncertainty they all bring.

The pandemic has brought uncertainty and a rapid change to our lifestyle. It has increased the potential for anxiety and frustration, not only for young people, but also for parents.

Man chatting with young man outside

Calm response

If our young people see us respond to challenging times in a calm way, this helps give them a sense of security.

Role modelling

Young people tend to learn from the adults in their lives. This is from the behaviour they see rather than the words they hear. So, we can help young people in our lives by modelling the behaviour we would like to see in them.

If our young people see us responding to challenging times in a calm way, this helps give them a sense of security. Demonstrate positive coping strategies you are using to try and cope with the current situation.

Acknowledge feelings

Like us, young people will be feeling different emotions, such as fear, frustration and sadness. Our instinct may be to try and soothe them, tell them not to worry, or that things could be worse.

Before doing this, take a deep breath, pause, and visualise yourself in the young person’s shoes. Their emotions are real and scary. They will need your reassurance.

But first, they will want to feel heard and have their feelings validated. Let them know you understand how difficult things are for them right now, that it can be unfair and upsetting.

Be guided by them

Instead of guessing, don’t be afraid to ask your young person what they need from you right now. Do they just want to be listened to? Maybe they need some guidance or help to solve a problem?

Or perhaps they are looking for advice or a new perspective on things. At times, it might be distraction and cheering up that is warranted.

If you are not used to talking about emotional issues with your young person, there are some pointers here.

In the case your young person can’t tell you what they need or want, trust your own instinct. You know them best. The fact that they know you want to be there for them is the key thing.

Focus on strengths

Help the young people in your life identify their strengths, skills and qualities that will see them through this period. Remind them of difficulties they may have coped with in the past. Encourage them to remember the things they drew on during those times.

Support young people to recognise what has helped them before and implement these strategies again.

Acknowledge difficult times

Acknowledge this is a difficult time and that others in a similar situation are also finding it difficult.

Woman talking to young woman who has back of her head to the camera

A new normal

We know routines can bring a sense of security, which is helpful in times of uncertainty.

However, our usual routines have been disrupted. And it is a tall order for everyone to stick to what they usually do. It might take a bit of figuring out, but try to organise a routine that suits all of your family.

If you are working from home, let your young people know what your needs are. They may find it difficult to see you in ‘work mode’ at home. So try to switch off and spend some time in ‘home mode’ when you can.

You don’t have to stick doggedly to a routine, allow for flexibility. If there are days the schedule goes out the window, give yourself a break and restart again when you can.


Things can be stressful with our family right now. Even those we love dearly can get on our nerves at times. When you feel frustrated with the behaviour of your nearest and dearest, try to notice how you are feeling.

If possible, name the feeling/emotion and ask where you feel the emotion within your body. Acknowledge this is a difficult time and that others in a similar situation are also finding it difficult. Remember to be kind to yourself.

There is no perfect parent, just as there is no perfect human being.


One important thing is to be aware of our own needs and try a little investment in self-care. This may sound selfish or challenging. However, water cannot pour from an empty cup.

We need to keep our own cup topped up if we are to nourish others. Particularly our young people and the more vulnerable in our lives. This short online course covers ways to develop your own self-care plan.

You are doing your best

This is an unusual time and also a time to slow down and spend time with our loved ones. Remember you are only one person and can only do your best.

This uncertain time will pass and we will return to our usual routines and way of life. Hopefully, with some new skills and loving memories with the young people in our lives.


Listen: Brendan talks about how parents can support young people

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