There is no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic has harshly impacted our way of life, relationships, and mental health. We’re working differently, we’re living differently, and we’re spending time with family and friends differently.
But the pandemic has not just taken a toll on adults. The seemingly endless cycle of stress coupled with fear and uncertainty can wear even the sturdiest amongst us down. Children and teenagers could be struggling emotionally with everything that the pandemic has introduced.
The impact of COVID-19 on teens
Our children have had their lives upturned and disrupted in countless ways. Some lost their chance of being on the debate teams or being cheerleaders or playing football or star in the yearly high school play. The teen years can be challenging, even without a pandemic disrupting everyone’s lives.
What can you do to help the younger members of your family?
First, check-in with them often, and keep an eye out for the signs they are struggling.
Your teenager may be displaying signs of anxiety, upset, moodiness, or depression. It can be difficult to determine whether your teen is acting out as most other teens tend to or whether depression is taking hold.
Parents who have struggled with their mental health may be wondering just how to help their troubled teens. There are several approaches that you can take to check in with your teen and learn the type of support that benefits them most.
Learn the differences between sadness and depression
Right now, many of us feel intense disappointment and sadness. Our teens may have a significant amount of disappointment and sadness at how their lives have changed. They miss their routines, miss their friends, and worry about whether our lives will ever return to something that looks normal.
Feeling sad and having disappointment should be considered quite normal right now. It is also relatively normal for most teens to express moodiness. They may even potentially lash out in anger.
Depression is quite different from sadness. Its symptoms are more intense, last longer than a few days of feeling down, and also extend past feeling sad. It is thought that up to 15% of teenagers will go through a major depressive period during adolescence. More teenagers may face depression after a year of living through COVID-19 and its restrictions on their lives.
Here are some apparent symptoms of depression that your child may exhibit:
- Mood changes beyond the typical moody teenager, including anger, irritability, hopelessness, and usual conflicts with family members and friends.
- Changes in their daily routine and life beyond what the pandemic and more time at home have encouraged.
- Behavioral changes include withdrawing from family life and friends. Your once bubbly teenager may stop texting with friends and show zero interest in social media or video chatting.
- They display a complete loss of interest in favorite activities. Perhaps your avid sports fan no longer enjoys watching their favorite team play, or your video game enthusiast no longer turns the PlayStation on.
- Changes in sleeping patterns. Some may struggle with insomnia, while others begin to retreat further into sleep.
- Negative statements about themselves start to increase in intensity and frequency.
- Substance abuse may become a concern as a form of self-medicating.
Do you have concerns that your teenager is having mental health struggles? It could be time to step in, check-up, and see what kind of help they may benefit from.
How to start the conversation about mental health with your teen
Even teenagers who have a good and open relationship with their parents may find it difficult to discuss their mental health.
Here are a few ways that you can approach the topic with your teen:
- Pick the right time for a conversation. Don’t try to dive into a challenging conversation right after an argument. And avoid choosing a time when they are having a bit of fun. Find a calm moment when they seem approachable.
- Don’t embellish in the conversation. Stick purely to the facts, and focus on the behaviors that you’ve found to be concerning. Ask your teenager whether they’ve noticed these same behaviors in themselves.
- Validate your teenager’s feelings. Don’t dismiss any feelings or thoughts. Acknowledge that you are aware of how difficult things have been for them.
- Let them know that you love them, care, and want to help.
- Share your experiences. If you have struggled with depression, sharing this knowledge with your teenager can prove to be a powerful tool at this moment.
Be prepared for your teenager to put up the walls or to react with silence, and try not to anticipate the worst. Sometimes our children are simply waiting for someone to recognize that they are struggling. This validation of their experience can mean the world to them and help them get the help that they may not yet know how to ask for.
Mental health help for teenagers
The good news for parents is that there are several treatments for mental health concerns. The type of treatment that works for one teenager may not work on another, which is why it is so important to pursue as many avenues as it can take. Some effective treatments for patients of all ages could include therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, medications, and more.
Many therapists have adapted their practice to allow for virtual appointments, which can prove beneficial for a teen who has withdrawn and lost their spark.
Mindfulness and yoga can also offer positive results for teens and parents alike. There are countless online resources to turn to, so you can relax and refocus in the comfort and safety of your own home.
As a part of getting your troubled teen the help that they need, be sure that you are establishing a positive tone in your home. It can be hard to stay upbeat and positive, particularly if you struggle with stress and mental health concerns of your own. However, staying upbeat and positive, with reminders that brighter days are ahead, can prove hugely beneficial for your teenager.
It has never been more important that you keep the lines of communication open in your family. Don’t hesitate to reach out for help from your pediatrician or family therapist. They may have great ideas for helping you manage your family’s mental health during these challenging times.
If your teen is in crisis, you may find that a residential treatment center can offer them space and mental health help that they need to regain some semblance of normalcy. At Help Your Teen Now, we can guide your family to the right residential treatment center. Licensed medical professionals will work with your family to address the signs of depression and anxiety that may be taking over.
Reach out to find out more information about the residential treatment center that can address your family’s concerns.