Social distancing is hard on all of us, but it can be especially hard on teens. Many teens are feeling isolated from their friends and are saddened by the loss of sports seasons, proms, class trips and graduation ceremonies. College campuses are closed, preventing college visits and college orientations for recent graduates. With the future feeling so unclear many teens are feeling fear, loneliness and anxiety. Here are a few tips to helping your teens through these unusual and uncertain times.
- Stress to teens the importance of social distancing. Teens may be thinking “I’m not sick and even if I get COVID-19, it hasn’t been that bad for young people.” It is important to remind them that people without symptoms can still spread the virus to those most at risk like grandparents, elderly neighbors or anyone who has a compromised immune system.
- Try to maintain a schedule. It is okay for teens to stay up a little later at night and get up a little later in the morning now that schools are closed, but it is best to keep a routine as close to normal as possible. Encourage teens to do their school work during school hours when they are able to email or video chat with teachers if needed. Stress to your teens the importance of making time to shower and exercise every day.
- Share dinner as a family. Take advantage of this slower schedule without sports practices and school programs. Sit down together to share a meal and talk about your day, their day, how their school work is going. See if they texted or video chatted with their friends, and see how their friends are doing. Teens appreciate our interest in them and their friends even if they don’t always show it. Take time to gage your teen’s mood and how they are processing the changes that we are all going through.
- Give your teens some space. Teens need some privacy, time to themselves to relax, listen to music, draw or hang out with their friends over technology. It is ok for your teens to hang out in their rooms sometimes.
- Understand that screen time will be increased due to online school work and staying connected with friends and family through text, video chat, social media and even online video games.
- Encourage teens to try to balance online time with other activities. Encourage teens to get outside, walk, run, go for a bike ride, go fishing or help with yard work. Reading a good book, journaling or drawing are also good activities for stress relief and leisure.
- Work on projects as a family. Organize the garage or basement. Declutter and get items that are no longer needed, or wanted, ready for donation. Chores are an important part of keeping the family home running smoothly. Teens should help out with household chores around an hour a day. Helping with laundry, cleaning, and preparing meals keeps teens invested in their surroundings, even if they complain about it.
- Help and encourage others. Deliver groceries to neighbors, relatives or friends that cannot get out. Or maybe drop off a small gift or card to a loved one as a little surprise to brighten their day.
Teens who feel sad, hopeless, anxious or angry during the COVID-19 pandemic may need more support. At Primary Health Network, your teen’s pediatrician is available to do a telehealth visit to discuss these feelings and get your teen the help that they may need. Many of our sites also have behavioral health specialists who are available to help with many issues including anxiety, depression and coping with stress.
Dr. Lynne Johnson provides pediatric services at Greenville Community Health Center. She has been affiliated with Primary Health Network since 2006.