Helping Your Teen Cope With Pandemic Anxiety
The COVID-19 pandemic took a significant toll on our collective mental health – shutdowns caused mass unemployment, restrictions made us feel isolated, and many suffered loss and trauma as a result of the virus. These consequences had an even greater effect on teens, who are often less resilient or emotionally equipped to withstand psychological stress or unforeseen emotional challenges. They are still learning to use coping mechanisms and discovering ways to deal with anxiety and grief.
The COVID-19 virus disrupted teens’ lives in the following significant ways.
- They stopped attending in-person classes.
- They stopped participating in in-person extracurricular activities.
- They stopped spending time with their friends and extended family.
- They experienced fear and possibly loss.
Nearly half (48 percent) of teens expressed concern about social anxiety in transitioning to post-pandemic life and returning to in-person learning, according to a survey conducted by the Morgan Stanley Alliance for Children’s Mental Health to gather data regarding the effect of COVID-19 on mental health.
If your teen is suffering from anxiety and having difficulty rebuilding resiliency in a postpandemic world, there are ways to help.
- Encourage them to reconnect with friends. Take an active role in helping your teen arrange social gatherings, parties, and other events and activities with their friends. Welcoming your teen’s friends to your home or offering to drive them to a gathering place are simple ways you can support your teen’s return to an active social life.
- Help them to get back into their extracurricular activities. Support your teen’s return to any clubs, sports, volunteering, or other afterschool activities they engaged in before the pandemic. Getting back into an active routine filled with hobbies is a great way to ease them into postpandemic life. Enthusiastically suggesting new activities your teen can try may also help.
- Be patient with their behavior at school. As your teen gets adjusted to life after virtual learning, it’s important to be supportive and understanding if they are struggling. Your teen may feel out of their element back in the classroom and be suffering from social anxiety. They may fall behind on their schoolwork or act out in class. Try to keep open communication with your teen’s teachers so you can mitigate any issues your teen is having quickly and before they worsen.
- Be mindful of their social media use. Quarantine and COVID restrictions prevented teens from gathering in person, so they often turned to digital devices to socialize. However, overuse of social media can give teens unrealistic expectations, resulting in negative effects such as social comparison (comparing their social status to that of others) and a fear of missing out (a concern that their lifestyle does not meet a perceived standard). Social media is also an outlet for criticism and bullying, which may have a detrimental effect on teens’ mental health. Though teens are often private and monitoring their social media use is difficult, teaching them about the unrealistic standards depicted by social media influencers and asking questions about any bullying they may experience online from their peers will give them a healthy outlet to share their stressors.
- Suggest counseling. If your teen is still suffering from anxiety symptoms that interfere with daily life, treatment can help. Christian Health’s LiveWell Counseling offers a variety of therapy options for patients of all ages.
To learn more about admissions and available treatment for your teen, please call Ramapo Ridge Behavioral Health at (201) 848-5500.