Your Teenager's Mental Health: How Parents Can Monitor Signs of Mental Hardship During Times of COVID-19 by Dr. D-Nice Beaugelin
Being the most common mental health issues in America, depression and anxiety are currently on the rise among teens. The number has been increasing for years and it's only gotten worse during the coronavirus pandemic. Now that parents are working from home and homeschooling, be it voluntarily or not, they are spending more time with their kids. Luckily, there are a few signs to recognize if your teens are not coping with these changes well.
Teens are by nature very social and friends are an important part of their life. They love you but their body is not designed to spend 24 hours a day, seven days a week with you. This pandemic has separated them from their friend group. Now, there's not a lot of screaming and hugging when they see each other, or no cool secret handshake. The connection is done virtually, which is just not the same.
Even when there is an in-person interaction, there are 6-foot rules and masks involved. This is stressful when your body is pulling you to be close to each other, and literally, everything else is saying not to. Add to that having to sit through a virtual class that was less than engaging in person, and beyond sleep-inducing now, canceled sports and postponed parties. All you're left with is snacking on chips alone in your room, as you attend virtual school while texting with your friends. This is the perfect set up for mental health issues.
Know Your Teen
One easy action item is to share at least one meal a day as a family. By sitting down together, you can have open conversations, allowing you to get a feel for your teens headspace. Additionally, try to make plans to hang out with them once a week doing an activity of their choice. Having this set time regularly has its advantages as you position yourself as an authority and empathetic ear to your teen. Don't believe the hype that teens hate their parents and want nothing to do with them. They are growing and developing a sense of independence which they will need to be functioning adults. They need you now more than ever to be a guide, mentor and safe place to discuss the challenges of being a teen, yes there are challenges.
Feel free to eavesdrop from time to time, but remember, there is a delicate balance between information gathering and privacy invasion.
Know the Signs
It’s important to know the signs of depression so you can recognize them in your teen. These signs can include:
- loss of interest
- feeling down/hopeless
- trouble with sleep/oversleeping
- overeating/poor appetite
- feelings of failure
- trouble concentrating
- feeling as if you’re moving slowly
Similarly, signs of anxiety can include:
- feeling nervous, anxious or on edge
- not being able to stop or control worry
- being so restless that it’s hard to sit still
- being irritable
- feeling as if something bad is about to happen
All the signs can show up in your teen’s life as anger, spending more time than usual with video games or social media, being abusive to the people closest to them, reckless behavior, increased use of alcohol or addictive habits, less attention to personal hygiene, unexplained pain, dressing differently than normal and dropping grades.
Know Your Move
It’s important to remember that your teens can go from happy to depressed, easy-going to anxious in seconds. It is the nature of having a developing body with all the hormonal changes that go along with it. If you notice a change in your teen’s usual behavior, the first step is to figure out if this is typical hormonal behavior or cause for concern. Check with other adults in your teen’s life, any close friend, or family member as they may have noticed those changes, too.
Set a Meeting With Your Teen
The right words and timing are everything or you'll get the usual “I’m OK.” Ask when they will have time to talk that day and let them know upfront what you want to talk about. At the top of the meeting, let them know what changes you have noticed and where your concerns are then lovingly ask, “Are you OK?” Another great way to approach it is by saying, “Tell me what you are feeling.” Sit back and listen without interruption.
Now that you know your teen, you know the signs and you know your move, I can't just leave you there. It's devastating and scary to know your teen is struggling mentally. As their parent, your imagination will take you down the “worst road possible” path. Every possible negative scenario has flashed through your mind more than once. If your child shows signs of mental health issues you don't have to be left alone with your imagination. Reach out to your primary care provider or mental-health provider if your family already has one. Call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 800-273-8255 and ask them for help and guidance. You are not alone.
The content on 30Seconds.com is for informational and entertainment purposes only, and should not be considered medical advice. The information on this site should not be used to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease, and is not a substitute for professional care. Always consult your personal healthcare provider. The opinions or views expressed on 30Seconds.com do not necessarily represent those of 30Seconds or any of its employees, corporate partners or affiliates.
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