The era of COVID-19 has challenged even the most resilient teens. This age group already had to deal with the pressures of school, socializing, and social media. Add to the mix a deadly virus, and it’s bound to push teens to their limits. You may sense your teen has changed and become more anxious or depressed because of COVID-19. Your teen may feel:
- Alone and cut off from friends and family
- Angry that they can’t get adequate help from teachers for school assignments
- Sad that they were robbed of long-term plans and events (prom, college visits)
- Scared that nothing seems normal anymore
- Terrified of getting sick and afraid of the unknown effects of the virus
- Worried about their family’s health, jobs, and well-being
Increased Risky Behaviors
If your teen’s school has moved to online learning full or part-time, there’s plenty of room for unstructured and unplanned activities. Unfortunately, boredom may set in, which can lead to experimenting with risky behaviors, such as alcohol or drug use. Teens may want to self-medicate alone to forget about the stress of COVID-19. In addition, the stress of social isolation can heighten and exacerbate any already existing mental health issues a teen may have, leading them to riskier behaviors.
On Suicide Watch
The pandemic has caused severe stress among adults, but also very much among teens. A survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that anxiety and depression rose sharply between March and June of 2020 compared with the previous year. The worst news was that one in four young people aged 18 to 24 said they had seriously considered suicide due to the stress of the pandemic. Data is pointing to similar problems in developing teens, who are feeling increasingly uncertain about their future, spending more time at home, and being in the presence of lethal weapons or drugs.
Suicide was already a problem with teens; it’s the second-leading cause of death in kids age 10 to 24, right up there after vehicle accidents, according to the CDC. Even as parents struggle with the fears of COVID-19, it’s critical to support teens in the best way possible.
Check-In With Your Child
As a parent, you may need to work through the day and night. Try to check in with your teen so they don’t have so much unaccounted time to themselves. It’s a fine line between allowing your child to have privacy versus checking in on them if they are holed up in their rooms. Give your teen the expectation that you are going to look in on them — by phone, Facetime, or knocking on the door — to make sure they’re safe.
Be Direct With Your Child
If your child mentions wanting to harm themself or disappear from COVID-19, it’s a red flag that needs your immediate attention. Be direct with your teen. Ask without hesitation whether they’re planning to really hurt themselves, disappear, or commit suicide. Now is not the time to dance around words like suicide. This lets your child know that you listened, heard their words, and that you are not dismissing their fears.
Create Social Opportunities
There are ways to encourage in-person and virtual social encounters for your teen. Your teen may not have thought about some of these ideas, but they are likely on top of others’ lists, such as:
- Form virtual study groups
- Volunteer for civic or activist activities
- Find your teen a safe, social distancing sport, such as tennis
Initiate Virtual Therapy
Your child may be withdrawing more, feeling self-critical, and experiencing declining grades. There is a way to engage in meaningful therapy if your teen needs support. Find out from your insurance company how it covers telemedicine and find a therapist who is comfortable with online therapy. Video chatting is perhaps one of the most comfortable ways for a teen to communicate with an adult.
It may be difficult to determine if your child is feeling typical teen sadness or is heading more towards depression. If you feel your teen needs much more support for his or her emotional, physical, and academic well-being, visit turningwinds.com. You’ll learn whether a long-range plan to help your child excel during the global pandemic is the right decision to make.