While many teens are jumping for joy at the historic school closures due to COVID-19 (Coronavirus), if your teen is already prone to stress, you may see an increase in her anxiety.
Your teen may be stressed about not seeing her friends as frequently as before. She may be upset she can’t participate in her favorite afterschool sport or activity. She could be thinking longer term and concerned about prom or graduation. Maybe she’s worried about contracting the virus!
I’m sure when you come home at night you’re hearing many of these worries, if not more. I hear you. It’s rough right now.
Here’s 7 ways you can help your teen through the next few weeks.
- An anxious teen often focuses on the negative rather than the positive. Remind her of the flipside of the statistics she sees. While there are individuals getting sick, most recover. And while many will contract the virus, most will not. Also, reassure her that this WILL end and life will return to normal.
- Now more than ever can we be grateful for the internet and social media. If your teen has to have limited physical contact with friends, encourage online “get-togethers”. This will increase your teen’s social contact and reduce isolation, which staves off depression. It also offers a support system during this time of fear and anxiety. Have a daily debriefing of her conversations to make sure your teen is getting the right information and that this social contact isn’t hyping up her anxiety.
- Anxious teens benefit from distractions. Give your teen a project to do on her long hours at home. Cleaning through her room, or doing an arts and crafts project can be a simple but much needed distraction.
- Coping skills are a must right now. If your teen can identify activities or things she has previously done in her life to feel better, remind her to do them again. Journaling, meditation or prayer, breathing and muscle relaxation exercises, talking to friends, playing or listening to music, doing an art project, running around the block….the list is endless. If your child has never considered coping skills, it’s as easy as asking “When you are stressed, what do you do to feel better?”
- Promote mindfulness and staying in the moment. This situation is changing hourly and plans that your teen has today may change tomorrow. Encourage her to make a plan just for the day and repeat the mantra “One day at a time.”
- Utilize reflective listening to help your teen process through her frustration with the cancellation of any activities she was looking forward to. Many teens are looking forward to games days, championships, competitions, and other group events. Your teen needs a listening ear right now.
- Take care of yourself too! You are the most important person in your teen’s life. Manage your stress and anxiety to the fullest extent possible right now. A calm mom who practices self-care is a great model for her teen.
Bottom line: If your child is thinking about suicide or hurting herself, call 911, go to your nearest emergency. Make available the suicide hotline number to her, which is 1-800-273-8255. If your child is having panic attacks, can’t seem to calm herself down, or is having difficulty sleeping now is the time to get professional help. While the world is isolating, mental health professionals have not stopped working! Some offices are still seeing clients in-person, and many can offer online therapy.
Jenmarie Eadie is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who is passionate about helping children to become less stressed by giving them and their parents tools, support and encouragement. She received her Master’s in Social Work from Arizona State with a dual concentration in Children, Youth, and Families; and Behavioral Health. Her proudest accomplishment is following her dream of opening up a practice that is designed to focus on the whole family. She currently serves families in Southern California.