The teenage years are normally a challenging time. Add a global pandemic to the regular stressors and you have the makings of a perfect storm. This is especially true for teens who are already battling depression and anxiety. Developmentally, adolescents are supposed to be gaining independence but the pandemic has placed severe restrictions on this very healthy, natural inclination. School changes have also exacerbated the situation, taking away an outlet for extracurriculars and social interaction with peers. Not only that, but with remote learning, students are spending even more time with their screens which has been shown to have a negative impact on mental health. Not to mention that many families were impacted financially during the pandemic, adding to the stress at home.

Parents can support their teens with mental health distress during this challenging time in a couple of different ways (and if you’re not sure if your teen is anxious or depressed, some signs to look for include: being more irritable or easily annoyed than usual; lashing out; avoiding their friends; sleeping too much or not sleeping enough; overeating or not eating enough; and not enjoying things they usually like). 

  1. Encourage your teen to take an active role in their wellbeing. While circumstances like a pandemic can make it easy to get into a rut (which for your teen may include endless Tiktok watching, junk food, and gaming), help them identify the changes they can make to feel better. Oftentimes these are just minor modifications but which can make a big difference. You can ask your teen thought provoking questions about their physical activity, sleep hygiene, coping strategies, and how they’re spending their time. Guide them while encouraging them to identify their own solutions to problems.
  2. Find creative ways to help your teen get much-needed social interaction. Staying connected with friends via video or a socially-distanced meetup outdoors can be a great relief. 
  3. Encourage your teen to take breaks from their screens and get some physical activity. Even a couple of sprints up and down the street, a walk with the dog, or five minutes of jumping jacks can help increase the feel-good endorphin levels that will help your teen feel better, even if just temporarily. 
  4. Help teens maintain a consistent schedule. It helps to make a schedule together and post this in a visible place so that everyone in the house is aware. Sleep schedules are also especially important as they support high functioning during the day.
  5. Implement a gratitude practice. Counteracting negativity starts with gratitude and this is something that should be practiced daily. Encourage your teen to look for the things they can be thankful for even in the midst of the current strained circumstances. Things like time spent with family, the lack of pressure from being at school, the opportunity to learn new things can all be reasons for celebration. One way to remember to practice gratitude is to go around the dinner table and have each person share something they are thankful for. 

While these suggestions are a great place to start, oftentimes they are not enough and a teen will need the support of a trained mental health professional. If you see signs of your teen spiraling into depression or anxiety, or the symptoms of their diagnosed condition are getting worse, feel free to reach out to schedule an appointment with a member of our team. 

Health is just one appointment away. Take the next step today.