Reactions to change and what to do for rangatahi

Reactions to change and what to do for rangatahi

Tips to support rangatahi during and after COVID-19

Supporting rangatahi

Rangatahi will look to you for guidance and support for the changes and uncertainty ahead. Parents, caregivers, whānau and kāiako will have a particularly important part to play in reassuring them.

Those who are learning English should feel comfortable to use their home language as this helps with the leaning of English, whilst also ensuring rangatahi feel comfortable, safe and confident.

Provide accurate information

Young people will also be seeking information from their peers and the internet. Talk to them about getting the most up-to-date information. Talk with young people about any fears that they may have. They need to feel that any fears that they may have can be talked about and addressed.

The Unite against COVID-19 and the Ministry of Health websites are good places to start. They need to know how they can play a part in continuing to avoid infection and spreading the virus.

Unite against COVID-19

How might rangatahi react and what to do

All rangatahi are different and will show stress in different ways. Below are some common concerns or issues experienced by young people and describes how whānau, caregivers and or kāiako can respond.

Skating around the rules by getting together with friends and others, acting out behaviour, e.g. using alcohol.

COVID-19 has been especially hard on rangatahi. They may not be seeing their friends regularly and may be finding this unsettling.

Work with rangatahi existing motivations by treating them like competent young adults and allow them to manage themselves and help where they can. Have them focus on their values and look to the future. Assure them that things are getting back to ”a new normal “

Sample responses

You could say:

  •  “Is there anything that I can do to help you get some exercise today?”
  • “Would you like to do some exercise together?
  •  “What’s your plan?” (As in: “What’s your plan for getting your schoolwork done? for being with friends?
  •  “Can you help sort out some fun activities for your younger tamariki do?”
  •  “What can you help with around the house today?”

Excessive time online and withdrawal from day-to-day activities and interactions.

Help them understand that they need to be offline at times, that it’s important for their health as their eyes need a break, their bodies need some sunlight and physical activity to stay well, and they need to also help out at home. Help them structure online time alongside time offline to support wellbeing.

Sample response

You could say, “We’re all under stress. When people’s lives are disrupted this way, we can feel like withdrawing and being online. But we will all need to be healthy and we will feel better when we can help work together at home and keep learning at school. Maybe we can have a look at the routine we have each day and see what needs changing. We can work out how much online time you need to catch up with school tasks and keep in contact with friends. And then let’s look at times we can all chill out and relax, times for physical activity and times where we need to help each other out."

Self-consciousness about their fears, sense of vulnerability, afraid of different things such as touching surfaces or going outside, fear of being labelled abnormal.

Help rangatahi understand that these feelings are common. Encourage relationships with whānau and peers for support, encourage connection on line and in safe community places (but continue to reinforce appropriate social distancing), and encourage physical activity and getting outside everyday.

Sample responses

You could say something like:

  • "I was feeling the same thing – scared and helpless. Most people feel like this when there is a pandemic, even if they look calm on the outside.”
  • “The internet’s available, why don’t you see if you can get hold of Pete to see how he’s doing and what he’s up to; what their family are doing now the lockdown has finished. And thanks for sorting things out with your sister and spending time with her – she’s much better now.”

Wanting to be alone, feeling guilty or shamed about how they are reacting.

Provide a safe time to discuss with your rangatahi the events, changes and their feelings. Emphasise that these feelings are common, and correct self-talk or actions with realistic explanations of what they can do, what they have done in the past and what they are looking forward to achieving again.

Sample responses


  • "Many kids and adults feel like you do, angry and blaming themselves for things or being hard on themselves.”
  • “You’re a capable/kind/helpful/cheery person. Remember, everyone is helping. We just need to keep remembering and practicing things to keep ourselves healthy (wash hands, keep up social distancing). “Why don’t you find some ways people are adjusting to the new conditions and share it with us.”

Abrupt shifts in interpersonal relationships. Rangatahi might pull away from family/whānau and even from peers. They might respond strongly to parents' reactions to the pandemic and limits in their community.

Explain that the strain on relationships is expected during uncertain times. Emphasise that we need whānau and friends for support during this time. Encourage tolerance for different whānau members’ reactions and ways of keeping well. Accept responsibility for your own feelings.

Sample responses

Spend more time talking as a whānau about how everyone is doing. You might say:

  • “You know, the fact that we’re crabby with each other is completely normal, given what we’re going through. I think we’re handling things amazingly. It’s a good thing we have each other.”
  • “I appreciate you being calm when your brother was yelling at everyone last night. I know he stopped you doing what you wanted to do. I want to apologise for being irritable with you yesterday. I’m going to work harder to stay calm myself.”

Radical changes in attitude.

Explain that changes in people’s attitudes happen during pandemics, but things will calm down and things will get back to a new normal overtime, we just have to be patient and support everyone through this.

Sample response

Say, “We’re all under great stress. When people’s lives are disrupted this way, we all feel more scared, angry. It might not seem like it, but we will all feel better when we work together. Maybe we can have a look at the routine we have each day and see what needs changing.”

Wanting premature entrance into adulthood (e.g., wanting to leave home or school, wanting to live with a friend).

Encourage postponing major life decisions. Find other ways to help your rangatahi feel more in control of things.

Sample response

Say, “I know you’re thinking about quitting school and getting a job to help out. But it’s important not to make big decisions right now. A crisis time and just after the lockdown finishes is not a great time to make major changes.”

Concern for friends and families/whānau.

Encourage constructive activities on behalf of others, but do not burden with undue responsibility.

Sample response

Allow rangatahi to participate in cultural and religious grieving rituals. Help them to identify projects that are age-appropriate and meaningful (eg helping out, helping neighbours or getting supplies for those in need).