We’ve heard it persistently over the past several months: ”These are unprecedented times.” It’s no question the Covid-19 pandemic is causing many of us a great deal of stress and anxiety, teenagers in particular. They may be feeling depressed, lonely, hopeless, anxious, angry or fearful about the future (quite possibly, all of the above). As a parent, you want to prevent stress from becoming a chronic issue so be sure to take their feelings seriously. Now more than ever, they may require added support to help them cope with all of the uncertainty.
Stress can have a deep underlying and long-lasting effect on your health.
Stress triggers the body to produce larger quantities of cortisol, epinephrine, and norepinephrine. These chemicals circulate through your bloodstream causing physical, emotional and psychological reactions. A certain level of stress is essential to human survival but when your stress response doesn’t stop firing, this can take a toll on your physical and mental health. You may assume your teenager is coping fine during this pandemic but everyone manages anxiety differently. Start with honest, open communication and look out for signs of mental health struggles. The sooner you take the proper steps to help your child, the better.
What are some of the warning signs to look out for?
- Unusual changes in mood, extreme irritability or rage.
- Trouble with concentration and memory and a lack of motivation to finish tasks they previously completed with no problem.
- A change in appetite, eating much more or much less than usual.
- Lack of interest in things they used to enjoy (friends, family, hobbies) and neglecting school and family responsibilities.
- Major changes in regular sleep patterns, sleeping much less or much more than they typically do.
- Unusual or frequent bouts of sickness or nausea.
- Constant exhaustion or they tire very easily.
- Worrying much more than usual or persistent restlessness.
- An increase in risky behaviours like using drugs or alcohol.
- A distinct change in appearance (extreme weight loss or gain, lack of personal hygiene and grooming).
Help your teen take control of their stress before it overwhelms them.
The good news is, stress is manageable. You and your teenager can work through this difficult time together by being proactive and keeping up with regular practices that can ease anxiety. Ongoing communication is key. Here are some productive ways to help your teen with stress.
- Create a healthy routine, including regular bedtimes, and keep a schedule that works with online learning.
- Eating dinner together is a perfect chance to connect with your teen and check in to see how they’re feeling.
- Give your teen some space and allow them time to virtually socialize with friends to help ease feelings of loneliness.
- Have them play a bigger household role by planning and cooking dinner, decluttering the house or helping siblings.
- Put more focus on future goals instead of current “restrictions” to help them find opportunities.
- Encourage ways to connect socially with friends and family on a regular basis, like video chats with grandparents, virtual dinners and online parties.
- Brainstorm creative projects that involve the whole family to keep their mind stimulated.
- Encourage them to get involved in volunteer work, maybe even find ways to help others affected by the pandemic.
- Keep them physically active – run, walk or cycle outside, or challenge them with new virtual workout routines.
- Suggest taking up a new hobby or learning mindfulness techniques like yoga and meditation to enhance learning and relaxation.
- Carve out regular family time, watching movies, playing games or trying out new recipes together.
Keep in mind, you’re the parent so you set the tone in the household. Try to maintain a positive outlook and point out the opportunities that can come from change. Put things into perspective – this too shall pass, and a brighter future lies ahead.