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A psychologist’s guide for teenagers and parents in the pandemic

Apeejay School, Charkhi Dadri alumna and counselling psychologist Swati Singh says parents must be available to their children



Swati Singh, 32, a counselling psychologist currently practicing in Lucknow, lost her father soon after completing her first year in college at the age of 19, while she was pursuing a Bio-tech engineering programme. She suffered severe depression for at least three months after the untimely demise of her father. Inspired to turn her struggle into her strength, Singh decided to pursue psychology as a career choice. She then took admission at the University of Delhi to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in the field, and went ahead to complete her Master’s in Counselling Psychology. After this, she founded a pre-school, University of Toddlers in Faridabad in 2015 for 2-4 year olds. These days, Singh delivers counselling sessions for corporate employees, adolescents, couples, and children. Edited excerpts from an interview:

Swati Singh

How did you motivate yourself to bounce back from depression?

I did take numerous counselling sessions with many psychologists and psychiatrists. After so many consultations, I realised that they helped re-ignite the life in me and instilled positivity in my daily approach. I felt that this field was powerful to support people through their loss and therefore, I was motivated to make a living of it.  

Since you also take sessions with teenagers, do you think the pandemic has been a particularly difficult time for them?

Yes, a health crisis such as this happens once in several decades and we can’t predict what consequences it may have on anyone. With so many hormonal changes in their bodies, teens have found this time hard, especially when it comes to understanding themselves.

Not just them, the pandemic has been a trying time for each one of us but teens are in their impressionable years, and all this has been confusing for them. Having their parents at home all the time due to the ongoing work from home (WFH) setup, I have seen some cases where they felt they can’t adjust to it.

Since the pandemic, anxiety, depression, and anger issues have been common amongst teenagers because they aren’t used to being home all the time. Owing to online classes, they may have also become introverts, and drifted to their screens. With so many existing aggressive forms of video games, they seem to have picked on that behaviour too.

Shedding their lethargy that comes with relaxing at home in pyjamas and now returning to school, interacting with peers and teachers like before will also be challenging. As schools seem to be re-opening, their anxiety levels have surely gone up.

What psychological impact can the increase in screen time have on them?

In the digital sphere, one cannot control the content and amount of consumption. For an average teenager spending 2-3 hours on social media, seeing pictures of happy people all the time, does tend to have an impact. On social media, we hardly see the real picture and have very limited content. Even for me, if I keep seeing pictures of people with a great physique, who are fitter and better looking than me, I will begin to question my body image. Body issues rose for teenagers during this time and it has led to their insecurity and under-confidence.  

What is your advice for teenagers?

First, I want to say that they should be mindful and must engage in some or the other kind of activity, be it pandemic or no pandemic. This helps maintain physical and mental stability. They can also practice meditation and guide their mind to be positive throughout the day. Secondly, they should do something creative – whether it’s drawing, painting or dancing. In creating something, they will find an outlet for their emotions. Thirdly, there is a relaxation technique we practice during our counselling, a simpler form of which can also be done at home. Teenagers can breathe in, count 5-10 times and breathe out when they feel nervous or anxious. This is a great way to calm down and manage emotions. Finally, they should maintain social connection with their near and dear ones.

Could you please provide some tips for parents on how to help their adolescent?

I always tell parents to be the lighthouse for their children. No matter how big a storm is, they must emit the light to guide them. For doing so, they need to be stable in terms of their emotions, first. Children see their parents as models on how they can manage stress and react to it, and eventually they pick up that same behaviour.

Parents must talk to their children and analyse the root cause of why they react, and how they react. They have to acknowledge their emotions, before reacting to them. An adolescent needs a friend and if they can find him/her within their home, they won’t feel the need to venture outside. The best is to go for a walk with your child to talk things out and do some interesting activities with them. Being available for them is my final advice. 

Mrini Devnani is a Principal Correspondent and Marketing Coordinator at Newsroom. She covers student achievements, conducts interviews, and contributes content to the website. Previously, she served as a Correspondent specialising in Edu-tech for the India Today Group. Her skill areas extend to Social Media and Digital Marketing. For any inquiries or correspondence, you can reach out to her at [email protected].