How to survive lockdown with teen boys, by a local psychologist


My own body is still on high alert.

I feel it in the way I breath and the way my digestion and sleep has a rhythm of it’s own.

My body is still adjusting to indoors and so are my thoughts and feelings.

I see my friends and family, on Zoom chat, putting on a brave front, yet I can see the fear and dread of the lockdown in their eyes.

I am a psychologist. I am the author of ‘How to Raise a Man’ and have dealt with families, mothers and teenagers for 30 years.

I should be able to help. Yet I too have to adjust, separated from loved ones, torn from routines and healthy habits too. It’s not easy.

As I write this I think of  families out there isolated in their homes, tense in their bodies, and I think about the fear in your kids eyes.

 “I am the parent”, you say to yourself, “I should be taking the struggles away and helping them feel safe.”

Yet you feel helpless and vulnerable too, especially after watching facts and figures rise and hearing some version of “life will never be the same!” I have put my thinking cap on for you.

I want to help. I want to be able to offer you resources so I must turn to what helps me.

Start with yourself.

Become a little more self-aware and widen your consciousness before you expect your family to change.

Feel your feelings every morning

Show up for yourself first. Sit still and feel the sensations. Practice the breath cycle.

IN for 4 , hold for 7 and OUT for 8. Breath until you can do this easily. Then journal for 10 minutes. Write your feelings, thoughts or ideas down.

Let it be a ‘stream of consciousness’ and don’t think it through.

If writing is not for you, than sketch, doodle or move your body. Express naturally and easily. Be curious and not critical.

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There is not much you can control right now

What can you control? Your attitude and your attention. It starts with your attitude towards yourself first.

Can you be kinder and more forgiving of yourself right now? Than can you be warmer, lighter and understanding of your children, teens and partner.

Attention is also a tool.

How do you pay attention?  I suggest with an open mind, open heart and a willingness to engage. Try to be more accepting, step by step.

Decide to set a parent intention

What do you hope to achieve in these 21 days? Use your imagination here. What would a beautiful and harmonious ecosystem look like?

How does that feel? Let the image full your inner experience. What can a parent do to bring light, love and laughter to a dismal situation?

What is most important now?

It can be as simple as: “people before things.” Think of your intention like a mission statement you want to achieve as a parent.

Now open it up and create a family intention that includes everyone.

Have a group meeting and a team talk (we are all in this together). Create a team mission statement.

“During this time we want to be and do:”

Even if your teen says “I want everyone to leave me alone!” Let everyone have a say.

Try creating a team vision board. What does our family stand for? Create a logo.

Include some family pictures and values here. If no ones up for it, plant the seed and set a date with everyone and re-group the next day.

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Now have some fun

Turn the mundane into the magic. For boys it needs some noise and action. If it ends in tears no problem; tomorrow’s another day.

  • picnic on a blanket even if it’s in the lounge;
  • have a joint Zoom party with another family;
  • practice yoga or take a dance class together via YouTube;
  • share music playlists;
  • play board games or cards or 30 seconds;
  • Google some general knowledge questions and ask them;
  • reignite story time- chose an action or sci-fi novel and read it to the family after a meal;
  • cook together;
  • clear the furniture for the evening and play tag, teach an old dance style, pass the baton or a form of blind man’s bluff;
  • schedule joint ‘cross training’- let’s all get fit and build muscle.

Remember boys often need a goal and an outcome

Teach your teen some practical life skills- whatever you able to do

Change a car or bicycle tyre; change a plug; set up a tent in the yard; test the pool water; make an extension for a lamp with tape; load a washing machine; iron shirts; make filter coffee; teach him how to create a home accounts spread sheet; paint a wall; plant some seeds in a pot.

Teach him whatever DIY you can. Show him and leave him to do it. It took my son hours to fix a lamp, but he got there.

Time limit it by having loads of joint projects together (some suggestions above).

Teens can go down the rabbit hole of gaming, so bring the healthy options to his attention.

There are loads of documentaries and online channels like Chatterpack, Curiosity stream, Skeptical science and Headspace.

Let him have a date with a girl (or boy) online. Help him set it up and let him have privacy. Don’t watch and don’t ask how it went! 

Games, books, music, cooking, flower arranging, exercise, painting, writing and chatting can draw him away.

Use it all.

Chat back:

Share your story with Parent24. Anonymous contributions are welcome.

WhatsApp: Send messages and voicenotes to 066 010 0325

Email: Share your story with us via email at chatback @

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