The COVID-19 pandemic is real. And really stressful.
The Coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent lockdown seemed to happen really fast. This leads me to wonder, what’s this like for your teenager? Are they freaking out? Completely ignoring things? Depressed that they can’t see their friends? Turning their room to a hibernation cave?
A year ago, I don’t think many of us anticipated reading an article on how to help your teen cope with a pandemic and a quarantine. But, here we are. COVID-19, Coronavirus, Novel Coronavirus – whatever you like to call it – is stressful. We stress about being infected. However, we really stress about the huge changes it’s causing in the world and our daily lives. And by now, we all probably have a touch of cabin fever.
How’s your teen adjusting to a COVID-19 world?
This situation sucks. There’s no way around it. Anxiety, depression, irritability are all things that are likely to occur as a result of social distancing. But, here are some signs your teen may be struggling to cope with these changes and need some extra support:
- Changes in your teenager’s sleep. Your teen may be sleeping way too much, not enough, or just sleeping a couple of hours here and there.
- Self-isolating. Maybe they aren’t speaking to anyone else in the house. They always like their space, but man, these days they can go all day without talking to anyone.
- Expressing a lot of worry and anxiety about virus and current situation. Worry is normal. A bit of anxiety is certainly understandable in the midst of a worldwide pandemic. But it’s important to watch for “over worrying.” Too much anxiety can be a sign that your teen needs help processing what’s going on. When this happens, explain what’s realistic and what’s not.
- Increases in irritability, anger, or outbursts. Again, some anger and outbursts should be expected. Your teen’s life has changed almost overnight. However, a teen having huge outbursts are something that should grab your attention as a parent.
- Constantly worrying and anxiety about how this will affect grades, sports performance. This can concern may be heightened if your teen has already shown perfectionist tendencies.
- Controlling behaviors. For example, if they previously spent all of their time getting perfect grades, but now they spend a great deal of time cleaning, perfectly arranging or rearranging their room or similar things this is a sign that they are struggling to exert control in their life. Control is a common way people compensate for anxiety and may be a sign your teen needs some mental health support.
Here are 6 tips (plus a bonus) to help teens get through the COVID-19 pandemic.
Give each other space.
We’re going to be in the house with each other most of the day. We’re going to spend time together. A LOT of time. As parents, we have a tendency to push for things like family time. I understand, when you’re not in the middle of a pandemic, family time is limited by busy lives. Usually, we’re starving for time together. Now, we may be having more family time than we want. I’m not saying “no family time,” but let’s not force it simply for the sake of having it or because “it’s what we’re supposed to do.” Who really wants lots of family time with pissed off teenagers for days on end?
Do some fun things together. Let your teens pick what you do!
If I’m going to promote you giving each other space, I should probably include a little more about that. “Space” doesn’t mean that you become completely estranged from one another. So, try to set up some fun things to do as a family while we’re dealing with this COVID-19 situation. Positive parent-child relationships do great things for teens’ long-term mental health.
You should try to let your teens pick what you do together. In fact, you’ll find that giving your teen a say in what happens, within reason, will usually get their attention and interest. So, if they want to get together and watch BoJack Horseman on Netflix for example, take that time. Or, if they want to play Call of Duty or Animal Crossing with you, go for it. The might not want to play Monopoly or watch Eighth Grade (which all parents of teens should watch) and that’s okay. Maybe next time they will. In short, lockdown is a perfect time to have some quality parent-teen time. Even if you’re doing things you may not be so crazy about or have yet to do. This is your chance to hang out with your kid. Embrace it!
Be careful with social media.
While we know we’re all going to be on social media (I mean, chances are you found this blog on Facebook), it’s important to be mindful of what we’re looking at. There is a ton of information and probably more MISinformation out there written by whoever felt like saying it. Personally, I get stressed out when I read all of the end-of-world stuff over and over and over. So I eventually stop reading it. But your teen may not have that kind of self-control. So, check-in with your kids on what they’ve been hearing, watching, and reading via social media and YouTube. Social media can be helpful for a lot of teenagers to interact with friends during the COVID-19 crisis. But, if they’re getting their information from places that make their anxiety turn to panic, let’s try to cut that out. If friends are saying things that are increasing stress, discuss that with them.
Use technology to your advantage.
It’s important for you as a parent and for your kids as teens to get some social interaction. It’s well-documented through tons of research that people need social support. Even introverts. Even people with social anxiety. At the moment, technology is still allowing people to attend therapy sessions, via online counseling. But, we’re limited in our ability to have social interaction. The good news is that we have virtual ways to communicate using FaceTime, Facebook Messenger, Skype, and Zoom. I’m hugely extroverted, so I’ve been FaceTiming friends and other therapists all week. I know we’re usually telling our kids to get off the phone and video games, but we’re in a unique situation right now, and those are some of the most effective ways that we can have human contact outside of our home. So whether kids are making (safe, appropriate) videos on TikTok or trash-talking with their friends on Fortnite, remember that these are ways for them to have contact with people they would normally talk with at places like school or practice.
So, there’s still outside. COVID-19 doesn’t seem to just be floating around in open air without being fairly close to someone. A lot of us are still in a spot where we can do some active things outside of the house or even sit on the porch and get some air. Exercise (read: exercise – not trying to lose weight). Even a simple activity like taking a walk, does things to our brain that help us to feel a little better. This is a reason that I offer Walk & Talk therapy, under normal circumstances. So, take a casual stroll, go for a run, play basketball in the driveway, whatever. Exercise and the outdoors don’t fix all the problems. But those things can help at least a little. You can go outside. It’s there. Obviously, we’re still being told to stay 6 feet or more away from people. But I just went for a walk with my dog, and I was able to do that easily.
Full night’s sleep. Naps. Meditation. All of those kinds of rest. COVID-19 can’t take our free time to relax and recover, right? Your teen suddenly has time for this. Needed rest helps reduce things like irritability, outbursts, anxiety, and depressed mood. We think more clearly and reasonably. As long as they’re not sleeping 16 hours per day, let them rest. Most teens need around 10 hours of sleep per day, anyway. Trying to keep some kind of regular sleep cycle is still important, though.
Bonus tip: Pet a dog.
I added this as a bonus because I know that not everyone has a dog. But if you do, pet them and encourage your teenager to connect and spend time with your dog. There is a lot of hard science that says petting a dog makes things happen in your brain that cause you to feel better. This is a go-to for me when I’m not feeling so great emotionally (because counselors aren’t immune to feeling down, worrying, etc). Like exercise, it doesn’t fix all of your problems. But doing this makes cool things happen in your brain, and your dog is going to love it. You don’t have to stop at petting your dog. You can talk to them, too. Edge has been a great listener for me before.
Ultimately, take care of each other.
No matter what happens, we still need to be kind to each other. That will have a positive impact on everyone. I saw a sign one time that said “Be the person your dog thinks you are.” I would argue that you’re already that person. But, it would be great for you to be that person toward others right now. It’ll be best for everyone. You’ll probably feel better, too.
Online Therapy in Tennessee for COVID-19 Related Anxiety and Adjustment:
Even in a world where we’re encouraged to stay home, your teen doesn’t have to live with excessive worry, seeking control and perfection, or constant stress. In fact, they need to feel connected to someone more than ever. As a teen therapist, I will want to help support teens and their families during this stressful time.
The good news is online therapy can help. It can help your teen feel connected even in this weird world. Through online counseling, your child can not only survive this stay at home stuff without their mental health getting worse, but they can learn to THRIVE during it. I understand the stress your teen is facing and through relating to them, letting them process what they’re going through and giving them some new skills, I can help them really get a handle on the depression or anxiety right now.
Counseling in the age of Covid 19
Counseling looks a little bit different right now. It’s true that you can’t come directly to my Nashville area counseling office. However, as a therapist, I’m offering all the same support I always have. I’m still working with teens and young adults. I’m still specializing in helping with anxiety, which feels really relevant right now. And I’m still all about empowering people to have greater self confidence and be the best version of themselves. I’m just offering those mental health supports through online counseling now. In fact, just a few days ago, I was on Channel 2 WKRN to speak about the move to online therapy.
Begin Online Counseling in Tennessee
I want to continue helping people through this uncertain time. Teen counseling can help your child feel more confident, comfortable, and improve their ability to handle stress. Edge and I specialize in working with teens and young adults online or in-person. To start online therapy in Tennessee, follow these simple steps:
- Contact Cody and schedule a free 15-minute consultation for your teen.
- Invite your teen to meet with Cody and Edge for an initial counseling session
- Begin teen counseling and help your teen cope with their anxiety, stress, and worry during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Counseling services offered by Cody Higgs and his therapy assistant dog Edge:
In addition to online therapy Edge and I offer a variety of counseling services in Franklin or online throughout the state of Tennessee. More specifically, I offer teen therapy, young adult counseling, and walk + talk therapy. I specialize in working with people who feel anxious but can help with a wide range of concerns. Additionally, I offer group therapy for teen girls and a young adult women group in the Nashville area. To learn more about Edge and I, please contact my counseling office.