Teens’ Mental Health & COVID-19
January 22, 2021
Addressing Teen Mental Health During COVID-19
By: Christine Perdue, PNP
The stress and uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic can be taxing on us all, but it may be especially hard on teens. Social distancing to slow the spread of COVID-19 leaves many teens feeling cut off from friends and many have an especially hard time coping emotionally. The uncertainty leads to high levels of stress, anxiety, hopelessness, anger, and even depression. Here are some ways to help your teen during this difficult time.
Work Together to Create a New Normal
Virtual learning and cancelled after-school activities mean a new routine. Although the schedule may be different, create a new schedule that works with online learning and stick to it! Set a time to wake up and a morning routine before their classes start. Allow your teen to sleep in a little later than normal because they no longer have to commute to school. Plan mini breaks throughout the day and a 1-hour lunch break. After classes are over, allow “down” time. Give your teen some privacy. Encourage them to reach out to friends virtually, listen to music, or whatever they enjoy doing. Setting a new daily routine will take some of the uncertainty out of their day.
Communicate Honestly and Openly
The unknown and uncertainty of COVID-19 may create fear in your teen. It is important to share information about what is happening and to clear any misinformation they might have heard. Keep information about COVID-19 calm and factual. Answer questions they might have honestly. Talk to your teen about how they are feeling. Watch for signs that they are struggling. Stay positive and consistently relay the message that a brighter future lies ahead.
Stay Safely Connected
Although we reinforce to teens that staying home saves lives, we also encourage them to continue to spend time with their friends, virtually. Allow your teen to stay connected to friends by phone, text, video chat, or social media. Playing games online with friends may also help them feel connected to friends. But be sure to agree on screen time during school days.
Mind & Body Health
Help your teen stay active by going on a walk or run outside, either by themselves or as a family. You might enjoy doing a video workout together. Encourage your teen to read a book, listen to an audiobook, watch movies or TV shows together, or even take a virtual tour of a museum. And don’t forget, teens need plenty of sleep!
Signs that a teen may need more support
- Changes in mood that are not usual for your teen
- Changes in behavior, such a stepping back from personal relationships
- A lack of interest in activities previously enjoyed
- A hard time falling or staying asleep
- Changes in weight or eating patterns, such as never being hungry or eating all the time
- Changes in appearance, such as lack of basic personal hygiene
- An increase in risky or reckless behaviors, such as using drugs or alcohol
- Thoughts about death or suicide, or talking about it
If you see these changes in your teen, it is important to immediately make an appointment with their pediatrician. Pediatricians can screen for depression, anxiety, and trouble coping with stress and can provide mental health resources.
While not everyone who talks about suicide will act on their words, any talk about suicide should be taken seriously. Seek help immediately by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK or texting the Crisis Text Line by texting “TALK” to 741741.
We all look forward to a brighter future ahead and hope you and your teen take this time to develop a strong family relationship.