Coronavirus, Teen Mental Health, Children & Adolescents

18 June, 2020

COVID-19: How to keep young people motivated at home

Most parents and young people would have made great plans for the upcoming summer holidays. Then COVID-19 and the many restrictions came crashing in, causing disruptions to young people’s school year, social life and their many plans for the summer.

To keep young people motivated and on track for the summer holidays, Ailish Kenneally of the Willow Grove Adolescent Unit in St Patrick’s Mental Health Services has outlined some useful ways to stay positive as we try to align our lives with the ongoing restrictions during this pandemic. You can also download a summer activities planner, to help you and your family plan for the summer break. 

Structure and routine
Encourage structure and routine to keep everyone in your house motivated. In these uncertain times, it’s very important to keep a daily routine going. This does not need to be a military minute by minute timetable, but more of a loose structured daily plan, for example;

  • 8 - 9 am: breakfast
  • 10 am: walk/exercise
  • 1 pm: lunch
  • 2 pm: gardening/outdoor time
  • 5 pm: cooking/baking or creative project or internet time
  • 7 - 9 pm: hanging out with friends/family movie time
  • 11 pm: bedtime

Weekend’s could have more downtime or be less structured. Why not download our summer planner to help with your plans? 

Manage expectations
It is very important to manage expectations - this includes your expectations and the young person’s expectations. Sometimes it’s ok for young people to do ‘nothing’ and parents need to be ok with this. You cannot expect young people to study for 12 hours a day. For both adults and young people, it can be challenging to keep motivated - remember this is normal. Everyone needs to bear in mind that it’s ok to be bored and not motivated to do things from time to time.

Set realistic goals
Setting goals can also be a positive way to stay motivated during these uncertain times. Goals can be for fitness, health, education, spirituality, relationships and you can have both short term and long term goals. Setting a family goal would help everyone get involved and keep some momentum. For example, a 5km walk/cycle or getting involved in a charity event.

Set projects
Creativity can help keep the enthusiasm going. A  project for the young person to work on will help with a sense of achievement and will help keep them motivated. A gardening project, DIY, painting, knitting, art and crafts - these are some things that could be encouraged and the whole family could get involved. Remember to help the young person start their project and help source some resources for them.

Some research on a topic or book would be an interesting way of learning, for example watching a movie about Michael Collins could help their knowledge of Irish history. Pick a topic of interest and try different ways of learning.  

Contribute to family or community
Why not have the young person contribute to the family or community? This could be doing something nice or surprising for someone else. Visiting an elderly neighbour (adhering to social distancing), making dinner, babysitting younger siblings, or general housework can help with their motivation as it's doing for someone else's benefit. Try to set out some things that the young person could contribute to their family or community.

Rewards are an important part of keeping the motivation going. There can be different types of rewards - it doesn’t always need to be expensive tech like an iPhone. Find ways to weave rewards into daily tasks e.g extra internet time or time with friends if the young person works hard on a goal. Rewards can be interpersonal, so giving praise and encouragement is a great place to start.

Go easy on yourself - and each other
It is important to remember that there can be normal levels of frustration with the restrictions, and acceptance of them is needed. For parents, it is imperative that the nagging is kept to a minimum (if possible) and to recognise how difficult it can be to remain motivated during these strange and uncertain times.