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We’ve been living with the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects for over a year now. The pandemic has changed life as we once knew it and several families around the country and the world have simply been trying to survive financially and emotionally. Teens and tweens are experiencing several feelings and thoughts during this time and could be scared, angry, or sad because of the changes we’ve all been forced to make. This can take a toll on your teen’s well-being. Protecting your teen’s mental health during COVID-19 is a priority for many parents. If you’re not sure where to start, here are some practical suggestions.
The Challenge of Excessive Screen Time
While many parents complain that their teens spend too much time on their phones, the pandemic has required that teenagers spend excessive amounts of time on their computers while attending virtual school and completing assignments. Some parents assert that too much screen time causes their teens to experience even more pandemic-related anxiety. Virtual school may also serve as a reminder to high schoolers that they won’t be able to have some of the experiences they were looking forward to. Some students are also afraid of going back to the actual classroom because they are afraid of getting coronavirus. A survey conducted in Canada last spring indicated that over one-third of families admitted they felt “very or extremely” anxious about the family stress that comes from concerns about the pandemic.
When it comes to the mental and emotional health of teenagers, it is important to realize that many teens are in crisis. Professionals such as Dr. Ramani Durvasula assert that teenagers were experiencing some sort of mental health disorder before the pandemic, and these conditions have only gotten worse during and in the semi-aftermath of COVID-19. A 2019 JAMA Pediatrics study revealed that 16% of youth in the US had some type of mental health disorder before having to take on the difficulties that were an inevitable part of the pandemic.
Bracho-Sanchez offers services to Latino and Black families that have disproportionately experienced the effects of COVID-19 and states that the pandemic created a dangerous mixture of emotional unrest. She states that families are under extreme stress due to job loss and food insecurity, which is very difficult for teens to deal with. Some teens have also had the misfortune of having to mourn family members who have died from coronavirus which is why doctors are seeing rising rates of depression and anxiety in teens.
Parents are also experiencing stress because they can’t control the outcomes of the pandemic. This is why for the whole family to practice healthy coping skills such as following a healthy diet, talking about feelings, and being physically active.
Understanding What Teens Are Experiencing
The first step to elevating your teen’s mental health during this difficult time is to empathize. It can be emotionally taxing for teens to deal with these major life changes during this important developmental stage in their lives. They are not able to have memorable experiences with their friends or participate in many of the activities that will shape their outlook on adult life. The teenage years are also a time of important milestones such as starting romantic relationships, graduating, celebrating a 16th or 18th birthday, or going off to college. The pandemic has limited these activities, which can make teens feel that they are missing out on important parts of life. Organizing safe and enjoyable celebrations that allow your teens to celebrate important life experiences.
These helpful tips can assist you in providing the right type of care and support for your teen during this challenging time. Helping your teen practice healthy habits for emotional and mental balance can assist them well into the future.