Dossier: COVID-19

Make the most of the free time

Young people are really feeling the effects of the corona crisis: Life seems to be at a standstill at a time when they should be hitting the ground running. Tips from the Pro Juventute advisory service should help get us through what is hopefully the home straight of the corona marathon.

Text: Katharina Rilling; photo: Paul Siewert, Unsplash

The pandemic is a huge challenge for young people, with boredom, loneliness and fears for the future playing a big role. In addition, home office and restrictions on their free time often exacerbate existing problems at home.

Lulzana Musliu from the Pro Juventute foundation confirms: “Our counselling service 147 for children and young people is currently very much in demand, particularly on our written channels. In fact, queries via chat have increased by over 200%! The longer the pandemic goes on, the harder it is hitting us mentally. In the second wave from October to December 2020, counselling sessions for mental health were up 40% on the same period last year.” On average, the sessions also lasted longer and were more intense.

“The counselling sessions highlight that many young people are lonely ...”
Lulzana Musliu, Stiftung Pro Juventute

Suicidal thoughts on the rise

And it’s not just Pro Juventute that is worried by the figures. Child and youth psychiatrists are also sounding the alarm: “Their practices are very busy and the data shows that more and more young people are seriously contemplating suicide,” says Musliu. Young people are hardest hit by the restrictions on their social life: “The counselling sessions highlight that many young people are lonely, they miss their friends or they’re worried about making friends again once the crisis has passed.”

Of course, simple tips are not enough if someone is experiencing severe psychological stress. In these cases, it’s important to have personal counselling. Nevertheless, Pro Juventute’s advice will perhaps motivate corona-weary people to think positively and tackle the (hopefully) last weeks and months of the pandemic with renewed motivation:

5 tips for young people during the corona crisis


1. Quality over quantity
”We advise young people to think about their social contacts in terms of quality instead of quantity. It’s a good idea right now to meet friends who make them feel good,” says Lulzana Musliu from Pro Juventute. This way you drive away the loneliness while keeping the risk of infection low. “And not everything is banned,” adds Musliu. “You can still meet up without breaking the rules and have good conversations.” 

2. See limitations as a challenge
There are a lot of things we can’t do at the moment. But simply moping around doesn’t really help – we can’t do anything to change the situation anyway. So, why not see the limitations as a personal challenge and get creative? If you think about travelling, for example. You can already look ahead to your next holiday – and there will definitely be a time when we can travel again – and make plans: Read books and blogs or listen to music from the country you want to visit. Or why not make contact with people who live in your chosen country via social media and start to learn the language?Parties and concerts aren’t on the agenda at the moment either. However, if you want to dance and have fun, you can find an alternative: For example, you can go outdoors with two or three good friends and have a headphone party – experience friendship, music and nature in a different way. 

3. Beware of online addiction
If you always have your smartphone or tablet to hand for chatting, gaming or taking photos, you have to be particularly careful now that you don’t lose yourself online. And you’re bound to clash with your parents if you’re always on your phone. The best thing to do is to take an honest look at how often you’re online and set up a schedule with fixed rules, which you then also share with your friends.

4. Make the most of the free time
Instead of just sitting in front of a screen and waiting for life to get better, why not do things that you’ve been planning to do for ages but have never had the time? This is the perfect opportunity. For example, you could clear out your wardrobe, sort photos and make albums, or update your address book or birthdays. Making or buying creative gifts now for the next birthdays or celebrations will save you time later. And it’s always good to learn something new. Your family would no doubt also be delighted to try out any new dish that you’ve cooked. Or how long have you wanted to start your own YouTube channel or get fit? Now is the perfect time to tackle a project that you’ve had on the backburner. And taking it easy and relaxing is also important. Why not have a massage, watch a film, take a long bath or read a new book? –To really feel the benefit, remind yourself that it is a luxury.

5. Get help
If nothing seems to help, then contact someone for advice: “Pro Juventute’s 147 hotline is available for young people 24/7. You can also write to our advisors via chat, email or text message. Our services are confidential and we are here to discuss any matter or concerns young people may have. Twice a week there’s also the opportunity to talk to people of the same age in the peer chat,” says Lulzana Musliu from Pro Juventute.You’ll find plenty of information on topics such as anxiety or loneliness at (available in German, French and Italian).