Help Teens Manage Mental Strain05/13/2020 04:31AM ● By John Gales
COVID-19 may have begun as a physical health crisis, but like their parents, children, teens and college students (or young adults) are likely to experience stress and anxiety caused by disruptions to school, work and life. In fact, a survey conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation found 45% of adults felt the pandemic has impacted their mental health.
A study by Jean M. Twenge, author of "iGEN," showed adolescents and young adults in the late 2010s experienced serious psychological distress, major depression or suicidal thoughts and more attempted suicide compared to those a decade earlier. That was before a global pandemic turned life inside out.
For parents of teens and young adults in these unprecedented times, these tips may help create a sense of comfort and security that boost their children's mental health.
Structure: Between school, parents working from home and the frequent changes in stay-at-home orders, it can be difficult to maintain a family routine. When so much else is unfamiliar, creating a sense of consistency can provide an environment kids come to expect and rely on. Find elements of the day that can become part of a new routine, like wake-up and bedtimes, meals together without electronics or a walk around the block.
Sleep: Because your pace of life has probably slowed, you may not think kids need as much sleep. However, during times of stress, rest is necessary to give your body and mind time to relax from the heightened state and digital forms of socialization. Multiple studies, including a report from Stanford that labeled the problem an epidemic, have shown a lack of sleep contributes to anxiety, depression and an inability to concentrate.
School: When it comes to schoolwork, determine what is realistic and achievable, and create short-term goals. Don't be afraid to customize lessons at home to meet your student's needs. For example, if the assigned reading isn't holding your teen's attention, encourage him or her to find more captivating material.
Celebrate successes: Victory may look different these days, but it's important to celebrate achievements, whether it's a day without siblings fighting or the completion of a family project like cleaning out the garage. Kids thrive on a sense of accomplishment, so when you find those moments, seize them and celebrate them.
Listen: Teens aren't typically known for expansive communication under typical circumstances, much less during a global health crisis. That makes it especially important to focus on what they are saying, validate their thoughts and create a sense of safety for them to continue to verbalize what's on their minds.
Coaching: Find an expert who can support your unique parenting challenges. A resource like All Kinds of Therapy provides a safe place for families in crisis and helps demystify the private pay mental health, substance abuse and behavioral health care treatment industries. The site provides parents of children with a directory of assessment, treatment programs, parent coach experts, teletherapy and consultants who can assist families in crisis.
"Teens and young adults may need mental health or substance use treatment due to feelings of isolation or the chance of colleges not opening this fall," said Jenney Wilder, founder of All Kinds of Therapy. "We deliver facts about treatment programs, virtual therapy sessions, and other resources to help families during this national emergency."
Resources offered through the site focus on treating diagnoses like depression, anxiety, autism spectrum disorder, substance abuse, learning disabilities and more. Visitors can compare and evaluate various interventions and treatments.
Find resources to help your family navigate the mental and emotional impact of COVID-19 at allkindsoftherapy.com.
Photo courtesy of Getty Images (mom and daughter using laptop)
Photo caption (woman): Jenney Wilder, founder, AllKindsOfTherapy.com