Contributed by: Healthians Team

The COVID-19 outbreak has thrown everyone’s lives into disarray. Its effects are clearly different for people of all age groups. However, what has been the impact on teens?

Harder for some teens, easier for others

Ongoing harms caused by the pandemic have been especially traumatic for adolescents. With the disruptions in education, homeschooling, inability to have play dates with friends, many teens have difficulties managing their feelings of sadness and anxiety. Others feel angry and aggressive over the curtailment of their social lives.

Behavioral changes and temper tantrums have become increasingly common. Children are demonstrating exaggerated emotions and behaviors. This is bad for their mental health and can contribute to behavioral dysregulation.

Most teens thrive in group settings and are very reliant on, and influenced by, their social networks. Ensuring that they stay away from their friends during the COVID-19 pandemic is not as easy as it seems — for reasons that aren’t entirely their fault. This can be exhausting, frustrating, and often just not possible for many teens.

During this age, social isolation and being confined to one’s house can be quite difficult. Most teens may find it very difficult to adjust and adapt to changes required by the pandemic. Many struggle to establish new routines in their daily lives. It is imperative for parents to be proactive, not just in terms of being aware of their teen’s mood, but also in terms of taking steps to improve their teen’s mental health. Early intervention could help to prevent the pandemic’s long-term mental health effects on teen mental health.

Signs to look for

  • Unusual moodiness
  • Overwhelming anxiety about future
  • Abnormal Isolation. This may be difficult for parents to notice because teenagers are prone to self-isolation
  • Losing interest in previously enjoyed things that are still viable to conduct during the pandemic
  • Irritability
  • Boredom
  • Restlessness
  • Sleep issues (either sleeping a lot less or a lot more)
  • Difficulty focusing or concentrating
  • Poor grades
  • Indulging in high-risk behaviors (which could be anything from the use of drugs to socializing in groups without masks)

What parents should do to help

Do not ignore any of these signs and symptoms! Mental health is equally important as physical health. Sometimes counseling can make all the difference.

There is a magic solution here since the “new normal” necessitates new habits and new ways of connecting and being happy. Now that it’s evident that our new normal isn’t going away soon, it is important to talk to your teen about what they can accomplish within the constraints of what they’re allowed to do. And most importantly, just know you are not alone.

  • Support them to find strategies to manage their emotions, such as taking a walk, running, skipping, drawing, or painting. Keep channels of communication open with them so that they vent out their deepest fears and emotions.  
  • Make sure that your teen doesn’t stay in their room all day. Devise ways to get them out of their room — whenever possible. Plan family meals, spend quality time together during the evenings, else try and build some routines that counteract isolation (and gives you an opportunity to keep a check on your teen).
  • Encourage your teen to stay active at home. Exercise can help in a variety of ways, including improving mood and reducing anxiety and sadness. Yoga is a great stress reliever that doesn’t take up much room. There are plenty of online yoga videos that can help in the practice.
  • Make sure your teen has accurate information about the pandemic without feeling overwhelmed. With social media sites flooded with information, including potential misleading information, ask your teen what he knows so far. Consider and discuss what is going on outside and clarify any myths and misinformation about COVID-19 being shared online.
  • It’s crucial to remain calm and in control of the situation, even if it’s challenging. Even if it appears that they have turned you out, try to figure out the connections between their underlying feelings and the tantrum.
  • Read to your children, watch Netflix series together and find opportunities to spend time with them. Play some indoor games with them and try to evolve together. Always keep in mind that the most important thing you can do for your growing-up teens is to love and care for them.
  • You can also encourage your kids to use social media to share their opinions and help other children in need during this crisis.

Concluding thoughts

It takes a village to raise growing children, especially in extraordinary times like these. If teens are well-supported throughout these trying times, this period of social isolation can be a stimulus for personal growth rather than a period of regression and skill loss. At this age, it might be helpful to help them manage uncertainty, accept what is beyond their control, and accept what is beyond their control if we engage with them with understanding and excellent role modeling.