There’s a pandemic going on and your teenager’s struggling with various feelings; namely, loneliness. Keeping this pandemic in mind, this article will help you understand the rise of the feelings of loneliness in teenagers, the effects of these feelings, and what you can do to help your teenager.
Mental Health Pre and Post COVID-19: What You Need to Know
According to the National Center for Biotechnology (NCBI), a leading organization studying various physical and mental health issues, before COVID-19, 13.4% of children were reported to have some sort of mental health condition.
They argue that with the rise of this pandemic and the lockdowns that are associated with it, parents and healthcare professionals will see a rise in mental health conditions. They also argue that more data and research will need to be done.
How Physical Distancing and Uncertainty Fuels Uncomfortable Feelings Like Loneliness
The reasons that the NCBI argues that there will be a rise in mental health conditions during and after this pandemic is due to things like physical distancing (with terms like social distancing coming under scrutiny), the swift, unexpected changes, and the loss associated with pandemics like COVID-19.
In Foster Resilient Learners, a book that delves into topics like adverse childhood experiences (ACES) and how trauma affects the brain and body, Kristen Souers argues that trauma can cause many uncomfortable feelings and responses in teenagers. Teens might feel grief, sadness, fear, uncertainty, and most obviously, loneliness when dealing with trauma and traumatic situations.
The Effects of Loneliness
But beyond being an “uncomfortable” feeling that we all must sometimes sit with, extended feelings of loneliness does have profoundly disturbing effects. These effects include:
- Feelings Of Depression And Anxiety
- In particular, teenagers might feel more social anxiety since loneliness brings up questions of belonging and exclusion.
- Feelings Of Despair And Lack Of Hope
- As social creatures, humans need connections with others in order to grow and develop as a person. Teens, specifically, turn to others, whether from a position of defining themselves from through or against others, for their identity.
- As some teens deal with feelings of loneliness, it decreases their distress tolerance since they become overwhelmed by loneliness.
- Physical Effects
- In studies done on the elderly, loneliness was a significant factor in longevity and lifespan. In teens, loneliness may show up in decreased motivation, decreased involvement in activities, desire to self-harm, and overall feeling of unwellness.
Helping Your Teen
So, what can you do to help your teen? A lot. Here are just some of the ways that you can help your teen
Tip #1: As with all things, have a conversation with your teen about loneliness.
Ask your teen questions that can help them identify how they’re feeling. These questions can include the times, situations, and people that trigger thoughts of loneliness. You may also encourage your teen to remember that they are not their emotion; that is, just because they feel lonely doesn’t mean that they actually are lonely.
Tip #2 Encourage your teen to see being alone as something that’s sometimes empowering.
Your teen may think of loneliness as a problem when it can be a way of having them become self-reliant and self-aware. There are times when being with others is more of a distraction than a way of growing as an individual. As many psychologists have shown, sometimes it’s being alone that’s an issue, but our mindset or views of being alone that is the problem.
Tip #3: Encourage your teen to join groups.
Although this may seem difficult with the lockdowns going on right now, you can help your teen by having them join physically-distanced classes, whether in-person or virtually.
Your Teen Looks To You
As with all things, your teen will be looking at your actions and what you’re doing to model healthy relationships. Help your teen by opening the door to a conversation where loneliness is real, but not always a problem based on its role in their lives.
If your teen continues to struggle with loneliness, consider helping them with various solutions that are available such as therapy and residential treatment centers.