The COVID-19 pandemic is affecting teens and young adults in unique ways. High school students have missed important milestones like prom and graduation, while many college students are starting their fall semester from home with virtual classes. There are also many negative mental health effects that adolescents are struggling with as a result.
How COVID-19 is Impacting Adolescent Mental Health
The difficult circumstances of the pandemic are causing mental health issues for teens and young adults. One study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that 62.9% of respondents ages 18-24 have experienced anxiety, depression, or both during the pandemic. More alarmingly, 25% of 18-24 year olds seriously considered suicide.
Teens are likewise at increased risk of anxiety, depression, and other mental health effects related to the pandemic. One study even found that 30% of American children exposed to quarantine measures during the H1N1 and SARS-CoV outbreaks developed PTSD. While research on the COVID-19 outbreak and social distancing is still being conducted, past studies give us an idea of the mental health effects from the current situation.
How Parents Can Help Their Children Cope
As a parent, you play a key role in helping your teen or young adult cope with the effects of the pandemic. Teens will require a different level of support than young adults.
Although teens are at an age when they’re beginning to grow more independent, they still need strong parental guidance. As their parent, you can be a safe, reassuring presence in your child’s life right now. Here are some specific strategies to support a teenager during COVID-19.
Limit Exposure to COVID-19 News
It’s important to stay informed about the latest coronavirus news, but you should avoid taking in too much information throughout the day. Focusing too closely on the pandemic can cause unnecessary stress, anxiety, and even lead to depression. Try to limit your news intake as a family. Also monitor your teen to make sure they are not obsessively reading information about the pandemic. Let your children know that they can come to you with any questions or concerns.
Validate Your Child’s Feelings
Staying positive may seem like the most healthy attitude, but it may do more harm than good. Avoid minimizing your child’s feelings, particularly any fears, about the pandemic.
Your teen may experience a wide range of emotions, from anxiety and fear to depression, resentment, or anger. They may be upset about things that you consider unimportant in comparison to the global scale of suffering. However, you should always validate whatever they are feeling. Listen without judgement to their thoughts and concerns.
Encourage Virtual Social Interaction
Socialization is vital to mental health. Even if we can’t physically be together right now, we can still connect virtually. Video chats and phone calls are great ways to stay in touch. Your teen might need some encouragement to reach out to others, especially if they are naturally introverted or resentful about having to stay at home. However, maintaining social interaction is vital to mental health of both teens and adults alike.
Support Virtual Learning at Home
Many high school students are now attending class virtually from home. If this is your situation, your child may need some additional support from you to stay on track. Here are some tips for helping your high school student succeed with remote learning:
- Guide your teen in creating a new routine and schedule.
- Provide help with assignments where appropriate. Direct them to ask a teacher or their peers when you don’t have time to look at an assignment or can’t answer a question.
- Limit distractions at home by creating a dedicated learning area.
- Remind your child to take breaks throughout the day.
Supporting a Young Adult
Young adults may have to change their college or career plans due to COVID-19. Although you want to respect their independence, you can still offer constructive support to help them cope with this difficult time.
Give Your Child a Private Space in the Home
If space allows, carve out a spot for your young adult to call their own. This could be their bedroom, a guest room, a section of another room, or somewhere else in the house. This is a spot where they can go to get work done, relax, and just feel like they have some independence.
Offer to Be a Resource, But Don’t Push
Your child may appreciate a second set of eyes on a paper or some feedback on a resume. But don’t provide your advice or opinion unless they ask. Remember that they are now adults and can navigate life’s challenges on their own.
Allow Them to Set Their Own Schedule
When your adult child is living at home due to COVID-19, it can be tempting to try to involve them in the family routine again. Resist the urge to do that. Instead, allow your young adult to create their own routine and follow their own schedule. If they want to eat meals with you, they will ask. If they’d rather eat by themselves or grab takeout, let them do that.
Supporting a College Student Through Virtual Classes
You should assume your young adult has the capability of managing their coursework, but there are still some things you can do to help. When they ask for advice, you can offer your perspective on the situation. Most importantly, respect their school schedule.
This could mean not asking them to do things around the house when they are busy. When your young adult is in their bedroom or workspace, assume that they are not available to talk. Don’t lecture them about their sleep schedule or the rest of their routine, and don’t get involved with their coursework unless they ask for help.
Additional Mental Health Support for Adolescents During COVID-19
If your teen or young adult is struggling with their mental health at this time, consider setting up an appointment with a therapist. Many providers are doing virtual counseling sessions to protect their clients from COVID-19.
High Focus Centers is offering its outpatient mental health programs through teletherapy right now. To start treatment for your teen or inquire about therapy for a young adult, call us at (800) 877-3628.