No matter who or where you are, your life has been impacted by the coronavirus. You may have had to cancel travel plans, delay important work projects, or even lost your job. The world has suddenly changed and we are left with no certainty about anything.
Teenagers are particularly vulnerable to the effects of the COVID-19 crisis. We see youth as a time for exploration, adventure, and fun. But adolescents around the world are now stuck indoors.
For some, school has continued with online classes, giving them the chance to continue their lives with some degree of normalcy. Virtual classes may make it possible for teens to graduate as planned. However, this is not enough for most teenagers.
Adolescence is difficult even when there is no global crisis. Teenagers are dealing with their budding sexuality, mood swings, and changing family relationships. They can feel alienated from themselves as their bodies change, and isolated from parents who don’t seem to understand them.
The current crisis is only exacerbating these issues. It is more difficult for teenagers to explore their bodies when everyone is home all the time. They are isolated from their friends. In close quarters with family, mood swings can lead to conflict.
They are also anxious that their lives may be delayed if they cannot complete the school year. And they are going through even more existential angst than adults experiencing right now.
Continuing with school helps, but teenagers need more support.
Now might be the perfect time for parents to recommend online therapy for teens. Therapy is beneficial during adolescence, and can provide the space for teens to express their emotions related to the current crisis. They will get the chance to speak about matters which might not seem so serious to their parents, such as missed vacations and lost romantic opportunities.
If your teens want to try out online therapy, be sure to provide them with the space they need for it. It is impossible for them to be open if they think you are listening. Let them know that you will respect their boundaries and definitely do not ask them what they spoke about with their therapist.
A balanced day
Adolescents also have particular health needs that may be compromised during this crisis. They are growing, and should be active and energetic, rather than lying around at home. For this reason, it is important that teens are provided with all the characteristics of a balanced day.
We need to give teens a healthy diet of whole foods and limit the snacks they eat. Exercise should be encouraged, even if it is just running laps around the living room. And, if possible, teens should be given some mindfulness training to keep their minds healthy and balanced.
A therapist may help teens get through these times, but social interaction beyond the family is crucial. While it may be frustrating when your teen is spending hours chatting to their friends via video or voice calls, you should encourage this. Even playing video games online with friends can be beneficial to their mental health.
An adolescent’s social life is incredibly important. In their social circle, they experience a sense of belonging. They are with peers who understand them, even if they never speak about the things which make them feel most disconnected from their families.
In general, it is important to take it easy on teens during this crisis. They already feel a huge amount of pressure due to things they cannot control. The more supported and less pressured they feel, the better.