Parenting a hormonal teenager is hard enough. Guiding one through the upset of coronavirus may need a particular teen spirit, finds Sandra Dick.

Dateline July, location Magaluf. If the world hadn’t bolted its doors and entered coronavirus lockdown, Fynn Donaldson and more than a dozen pals, fresh from leaving school and with feet still sore from dancing at the end-of-term prom, would be on the beach by day and hitting the clubs by night.

“It should be the summer of her life,” says her mum, comedian and writer Jojo Sutherland. “Instead, we’re at home playing cards and board games.

“She has lost her senior show, the prom, the last day of high school with her friends, her exams. They are all experiences that she will never get back; things that Fynn and her friends looked forward to since day one at high school are gone, and that’s hard.”

Across the Forth from 17-year-old Fynn’s South Queensferry home Eve Gill, 15, is in lockdown in Cupar, Fife, also trying not to dwell on what should have been.

She has trained for a year alongside specially selected teenagers from her school, Bell Baxter High School, for what should have been a life-changing 100km trek across East Greenland. Instead of heading off earlier this week for the once-in-a-lifetime Polar Academy adventure, she is stuck inside doing 200 push-ups a day in an effort to stay fit and trying not to succumb to frustration and negativity.

“She’s been upset and disappointed,” says her mum Moy. “There’s the anxiety of what is going to happen with her exams too.

“There’s something about the consolidation and clarity that comes with sharing a year or two’s work with someone other than her teachers that is not going to be there.”

While painting rainbows and watching Disney+ movies might get parents with young children through, lockdown for parents of teens has become a delicate balancing act of avoiding saying the wrong thing – impossible at the best of times – tiptoeing around unpredictable hormones and fighting over why they mustn’t go out to meet their friends.

For those trying to stop stroppy older teens used to independence from leaving the house, and others fearful that their youngsters may slide into deep anxiety, stress and even depression, the added pressure of the current crisis means the stakes are even higher.

The stress and anxiety of coronavirus, cancelled proms, scrapped exams and separation from friends comes against a backdrop of heart-breaking statistics that show young people’s mental health is more fragile than ever.

Last year, more than 35,000 young Scots needed mental health treatment from the country’s 14 health boards: a rise of almost 9000 since 2013. Worryingly, more than 800 children and young people waited over a year to receive support through from health board mental health services.

It means that for parents of teens, it is going to take a bit more effort than a Joe Wicks’s 9am workout and baking a Betty Crocker cake to get through what’s ahead.

At home in the shadow of the Forth Bridges, Jojo’s daughter Fynn should have been preparing for five Highers, hoping for the right grades to study politics and international relations at either Dundee, Stirling or Aberdeen University.

“Fynn has been emotionally down in terms of looking at the things she’s not now going to experience,” says Jojo.

“She plays volleyball for Scotland and had been looking forward to going the European Championships in Iceland in June. She normally trains three or four times a week; physically, she’s like a caged animal.

“One advantage is that her generation communicates online anyway. They’re doing stupid dances and messaging each other just like before and she still feels connected to her mates.”

Unlike smaller children who may not fully grasp the seriousness of the situation, she points out that older children can’t be easily distracted or fobbed off.

“You can’t bullsh** teenagers and say everything is going to be fine. They read the papers and see the news and know what’s going on.

“She seems okay, but I worry because mental health problems, depression and anxiety are much more prevalent among teenagers these days.”

According to parenting expert Laura Erskine of The BabyDoc Club, guiding teens through this crisis needs a particularly delicate touch. “They are looking at news and social media, they are glued to their screens in their rooms and they know what’s happening.

“We need to get them out of their bedrooms, into a family space and find new ways to do things with them.”

Talking to them directly about their feelings could backfire, she warns.

“Teenagers don’t want to sit down and talk about stuff that’s worrying them with their parents. They want their peer group.

“Instead of asking them straight about their feelings, ask about their friends or say start a conversation by saying you’re aware someone you know has a son or daughter that’s struggling a little.

“Teenagers are very self-centred and believe the whole world revolves around them. But their feelings and worries are all valid.”

For parents of older teens, there’s the challenge of trying to prevent headstrong young adults from wandering out to secretly meet friends.

Jojo, who has three other older children, says: “Fynn’s been good, but I think a few kids in the area have been a bit naughty. It’s going to happen.

“But her attitude is if everyone studiously stays at home, this will pass quicker.”

Although they don’t know each other, both Fynn and Eve are taking a pragmatic approach to lockdown.

Fynn hasn’t yet completely written off the possibility of a summer break with her pals; Eve, who was due to sit seven National 5s, is focusing on next April when Polar Academy adventure with nine other students from her school is now due to take place.

“I was gutted that it was postponed,” she says. “But I’ve come to terms with it now.

“We’re all being positive for each other.”

Case study: Life with the Wilsons

Charlene Wilson, a press officer from Clackmannanshire, has teenage daughters, Chelsea, 14, and Megan, 13.

“Our girls are finding things quite tough,” she says. “They’re at a challenging age with their hormones affecting their emotions and are mostly struggling with not being unable to socialise.

“They do chat on WhatsApp and Zoom but it’s not the same as having that human interaction.”

The prospect of missing birthday treats next month, not being able to see grandparents and family, and fears their plans to see Lewis Capaldi at Trnsmt may be scuppered, have been hard.

“I’m missing seeing my friends and even missing seeing my teachers if I’m honest,” says Chelsea. “I feel very cut off from people which isn’t nice.

“We are hearing the news every day about coronavirus and how more and more people are affected and dying, so that is quite upsetting.”

Sister Megan is also finding lockdown hard. “I mainly miss seeing my friends. I get a bit worried when I hear the news and daily updates about coronavirus and I worry for my grandparents.”

However, mum Charlene adds: “It’s not all doom and gloom.

“We are doing more together as a family than ever before, cooking together, sharing chores and finding ways to entertain ourselves in the evenings by watching a family film, playing cards or Scrabble, and coming up with our own pop quizzes.”

Mental health: the warning signs

Around one child in ten aged five to 16 has a clinically diagnosable mental health problem, with half of mental health problems established by the age of 14 and 75% by age 24.

So how can parents spot the signs that all may not be as well as they’d like?

According to mental health organisation SAMH, there are certain behaviours to look out for:

• Losing interest in activities that they used to enjoy

• Making negative statements about themselves

• Losing their appetite or eating too much

• Feeling tired all the time, disturbed sleep or oversleeping

• Finding it hard to concentrate or switch off

• Feeling panicked or scared without cause

• Obsessing over calories or exercise

• Missing meals or avoiding eating in front of others.

Seek professional help as soon as possible if you spot any obsessive or compulsive behaviour, unexplained cuts, bruises, burns or clusters of marks, seeing sudden, overwhelming emotions where they feel "out of control", or if your child expresses thoughts about hurting themselves or ending their life.

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How to get through lockdown without losing it

Stroppy teenager in the house?

Kirsten Amis, who leads the counselling service for students at Glasgow Clyde College, says it is possible to get through lockdown without losing it.

She recommends parents try to encourage teens to have a clear structure to their day, to avoid long days in bed and wearing the same pyjamas for days on end.

For teens threatening to go out to see friends, she advises having an open discussion about the dangers. “You don’t want to scare people but you do want them to make an active decision.

“If you tell them want to do, they will hear you speaking to them as if they’re a child.”

Games and fun aren’t just for little children, she adds. “Plan a timetable of stuff to do that they’ll be interested in. Something like Taskmaster on YouTube, which sets fun tasks and has people all over the world taking part, is great fun and encourages laughter.”

Reminding them that there’s a way out of this is also important, she adds.

“Encourage them to make plans for the future. That reminds us all that there will be an end to this, and normal life will return.”