Helping Your Teen Through the Impact of Social Distancing.
Living through the silent storm of COVID-19 has created some unique challenges for adults and teens alike. For teens where part of their normal psychosocial development is interacting and being with friends, this can be a particularly challenging time for them. Not only has socializing and being with friends been significantly reduced, your teen may also experience profound disappointment and loss due to missing out on traditional life experiences and "rites of passages". High School graduations, sporting events, dances, proms, and other important activities may be missed and can add to the growing distress your teen may be feeling.
As the stress builds over time, you may notice a change in your teen's behavior. Some changes in behavior that would indicate your teen has become overwhelmed and requires support are:
Your teen becomes more irritable, argumentative, and angry.
Your teen expresses resentment towards you or others.
You observe them being more tearful and struggle to regulate emotions.
You observe your teen isolating more and not wanting to be with family
You see an increase in energy level and attention seeking as they unconsciously attempt to 'burn off' excess feelings of stress.
Your teen complains of physical ailments like headaches and stomach aches.
They may have difficulty falling or staying asleep or they may be sleeping too much.
They may have in increase in general worry over life circumstances that they may/may not have control over had they been able to socially interact and attend to those life circumstances. For example, they may become hyper focused on not being able to attend school and the resultant impact it could have on their grades, fear and worry about losing friendships, concern over not being able to play in their last season of sports, etc
Below, I offer some strategies and approaches that can help mitigate the impact of social isolation and potentially help prevent your teen from becoming overwhelmed and sliding into depression, anxiety or other emotional struggles.
Communicate Openly with your Teen
It is important that you as their parent provide them with accurate information regarding the pandemic, dispel any rumors or myths that are circulating on the internet, and detail the steps and measures you are taking to keep your teen and family safe. To preface my next comment - it is critical that we follow the CDC guidelines as strictly as humanly possible. And, to help alleviate some stress and worry, adding perspective about the odds of contracting COVID-19 may be helpful. As of April 04, 2020, there are 6,110 cases of COVID-19. The total population of Texas is 28.7 million which means you have a .0002% chance of contracting the virus. (Compared to 0.0% chance and .0002% chance means we take all precautions necessary as no chance is still better than slim chance).
Be the Calm and Confidence You Want Your Teen to Feel
The display of calm and confidence you show to the outside world is contagious. While you talk openly with your teen about the current state of affairs, it is important that your teen see you being the 'calm and confident' you want them to be. You demonstrating an air of calm and confidence will help your teen feel safe and protected. Talk in private to your partner, spouse, friend, or any other confidant you feel comfortable with regarding any fears, worries, or anxieties you may feel about the pandemic but work to eliminate that type of communication with or in front of your teen.
Structure and Consistency: The Foundation of Safety
This is shaping up to be the longest summer in history! Schools are closed and may not reopen until next fall which means your teen has a lot of unstructured free time on their hands. The foundation of the felt sense of safety is in creating structure and consistency for your teen. Some suggestions for providing consistency are:
With your teen, set a bed time & wake up time for each day of the week and stick to it.
If you do not already have one, with your teen, create a chore chart and be consistent in ensuring they do their chores. This will keep them active and their mind off other stressors.
With your teen, create a schedule for the allotted amount of time for video games, TV, and other electronics use. Down time is important while simultaneously balancing their time in accomplishing productive things each day.
With your teen, identify the number of hour(s) the teen is expected to be outside. Going in the backyard or to a near by park (if possible while maintaining social distancing) will help with mood. Exercise has been show to be nearly as effective as medications in helping to reduce stress, anxiety, and/or depression.
Schedule a regular dinner time where each member of the family sits together for a meal.
Schedule one night of the week that will be spent as a family together in some activity in the home.
The key behind any implementation of structure is consistency. Your teen may grumble and complain (they are just doing their job as a teen) but the more consistent you are with the schedule you and your teen create, the greater the positive impact it will have on your teens stress and ability to manage mood and emotion effectively.
While connecting virtually has its limitations, this is an excellent way for your teen to remain socially connected to their friends. Your teen may not need too much encouragement to virtually connect with their friends however, parents can provide opportunities for connection. Parents can work together to create a virtual group chat for their teen and their friends through zoom, FaceTime, or other platforms to provide additional opportunities for healthy socializing.
These are but a few of the strategies to help your teen during a time of social isolation related to social distancing and stay at home orders. If you implement these suggestions with consistency, you will strengthen your teens ability to manage the stress more effectively. You may also find that during this time, your family connections are strengthened as you build and develop a closer relationships during this unprecedented opportunity to spend time with your teen.
For those families finding your teen experiencing persistent and strong emotional struggles during this time and you are concerned, reach out and talk with a counselor at Katy Teen & Family Counseling. We provide online counseling and the intake process can all be taken care of virtually. Let us help you help your teen and family weather this silent storm.
At Katy Teen & Family Counseling, we have worked with many teens and their families who have been impacted by COVID-19. Teen depression, teen anxiety, teen trauma, teen PTSD and other emotional struggles have been magnified due to COVID-19 isolation. If you want to start teen counseling for your teen or family therapy for your family, you can follow these three simple steps:
Contact Katy Teen & Family Counseling
Speak with one of our teen and family experts
Star the healing that can come from teen counseling and family therapy
At Katy Teen & Family Counseling, we offer the following therapeutic and counseling approaches:
Neurofeedback Therapy for Teen ADHD
How to Begin Teen Therapy or Family Counseling
To begin teen therapy or family counseling, simply contact Katy Teen & Family Counseling through our website or by calling 346-202-4662. Our Owner and Lead Clinician answers each phone call to help match you with the right therapist for you teen and family.
About the Author
Jason Drake is a Licensed Clinical Worker. He is a Specialist in Teen Therapy & Family Counseling. He has provided therapy to teens and families since 2003. Through his expertise, he helps teens who struggle with depression, anxiety, trauma, ADHD/ADD, and PTSD. He works with talented teen athletes who have experience mental blocks. Gifted students have unique challenges that Jason understands well. Jason uses CBT, EMDR, Neurofeedback, FFT, and Motivational Interviewing. We only work with teens and families which allows us to focus on what teens and families of today need. Resolving the struggles of today can assure a more successful tomorrow. Proudly serving Katy, Tx and Houston.