How to Help Your Teen Through the Coronavirus Shutdown

It’s a very uncertain time that’s for sure.  We don’t know how long this current state is going to last, which is scary.  Events are being cancelled right and left, which can throw all of us into a tailspin.  The activities our teens love and look forward to (sports, dances, trips, etc.) are on hold, which can make the most calm of us a bit unnerved, and even angry. 

So, what can we do as parents?

Listen to your teen. Don’t try to solve or placate their fear.  They see through that to your uncertainty.  Instead, validate this is a scary time, let them know their feelings are okay, and remind them of the things you are doing as a family to keep safe.

Empathize.  It is really hard to have your normal routine taken away, the activities you’ve looked forward to, your social life, etc.  Don’t minimize that for them.

Find time to connect (unplugged) as a family. It’s easy to all revert to our own devices and self-isolate.  One of the biggest challenges of this time is that humans, especially teenagers, are social beings.  We thrive on connection and contact.  FaceTime and Zoom help, but are no substitute for real interaction.  Try to find some time every day to connect face to face or engage in some type of activity together. 

Encourage exercise. A lot of our teens play sports, or at least have PE at school.  Now they are at home online all day.  Exercise promotes mental health, and for many of our teens, it is their release.  Find ways to get their energy out.  Be creative if it’s raining outside, or take a walk with an umbrella.  Fresh air is good too.

Take one day at a time. There is a reason this mantra is so powerful in 12 step meetings.  In uncertain times, it’s hard to see beyond the day in front of us.  Aspire to get through each day as best you can and reassess tomorrow.

Role model and teach coping skills.  Now may be the time to take up mindfulness or meditation.  Goodness knows, we can all use them.  There are a lot of good (and free) apps.  Calm, Headspace, Stop, Breathe, Think are just a few. 

Let them sleep. Our teens are chronically sleep deprived, which we know can lead to poor physical and mental health.  This is a time we want to boost everyone’s immunity.  If their school schedule allows, let them sleep in.  Their improved mood is worth it!

Remind them to connect, especially to those who are isolated. Again, it’s not good for humans to be isolated, and we all feel better when we connect and help.  Remind them to reach out to their grandparents, an elderly neighbor, or family friend.  Everyone will feel better for doing so.

Pay attention to their mental health.  One of my biggest fears about this time is the rise in depression and anxiety I expect to see.  I feel for the seniors who can’t take college tours or participate in activities they have looked forward to for years. A lot of our teens rely on their routines and extracurricular activities to promote their mental health.  Without those outlets, life can seem very daunting.  If you are worried about your teen, seek mental health support.  Many therapists are currently working online and want to help. 

And most importantly, take care of yourself.  Remember to put on your own oxygen mask first.  If you are not coping well, it’s hard to model that for your teens.  Use your own support systems or seek outside help.  Online groups are even forming for corona related anxiety.  And maybe, limit reading the news if you find it’s making you more anxious. 

We can all do this together!

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