Our pediatric experts can provide a lot of help and advice during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. From answering parents’ questions to answering kids’ questions to helping your family manage coronavirus anxiety, our providers are here to help. But there’s one thing they can’t tell you about during this challenging time – how teenagers feel and what they want.
So we went straight to the source. Teens from our Mental Health Youth Action Board (YAB) provided some advice on how to best connect with them and check on their mental well-being as their reality changes.
What you should know about helping teens during the coronavirus outbreak
Teenagers are going through specific changes that make dealing with the coronavirus extra challenging. They are increasingly independent, place extreme importance on their friendships and are beginning to challenge authority. They are also dependent on technology more than the generations before them.
So here are things our YAB members want parents to know about how they’re navigating this unprecedented time and how you can help.
Try not to snap at your teenager
This is good advice at any time, but it’s particularly important right now. The impact of COVID-19 is hard on everyone. Teens might be dealing with pressures you don’t know about or are hard for them to talk about. Try to summon extra patience and compassion if you can.
Give teens space
With your family likely spending more time together than ever, it can be tempting to hover over your child to make sure they’re doing what they should. But try to resist this urge. Check in with your teenager at the end of the day to review what they accomplished and what might need to change for the next day.
Help them form a healthy routine
Going to school online is a huge adjustment for most teens and may be more tiring than going to school in person. Keep bedtimes and wake times the same as regular school. Provide teens with healthy meals rather than a stream of snacks and encourage them to exercise for at least a half hour each day. And for every 50 minutes of schoolwork, let them take a 10-minute break.
Create time for family
Set aside some time to do something for fun and bond as a family. Put away your individual screens and do something together. Movie nights, cooking, taking a walk, game nights and other communal activities are great options.
Encourage your teen, rather than punishing
As you probably know, teens don’t like being told what to do. Encourage them to do what you want and try to make it seem like it’s their choice. Let them know what they should do for school or at home and give them the leeway to figure out how to do it. This will increase their sense of accomplishment once they finish.
Check in on your teen’s mental health
Without hovering or pressing your teen too much, regularly see how they are doing mentally. Look for changes in their mood. Be empathetic and understanding of how much their world is changing. Don’t leave them to figure out this new routine entirely on their own.
You can start conversations individually or as a family so everyone can check in and talk about their mental well-being.
Questions to ask your teen
It can be hard to know how to spark conversation with your teenager or what questions will actually let you know how they are doing. Our YAB members told us what they want their parents to ask them. And remember that just asking lets them know you care about them.
- How are you feeling today, really? Physically and mentally.
- What’s taking up most of your headspace right now?
- How have you been sleeping? How do you want to improve your sleep?
- What have you been doing for exercise?
- What did you do today that made you feel good?
- What's something you’re looking forward to in the next few days?
- What's something you can do today that would make you feel good?
- What are you grateful for right now?
Additional coronavirus resources
From answers to parents' top questions to important phone numbers to know, we've gathered the coronavirus information you might need during this time and put it all in one place.