Teens across the county have had their lives turned upside down by COVID-19. The day-to-day structure of school, friends, and extra-curricular activities has come to a screeching halt. Even summer break hasn’t included the standard level of fun and relaxation that they’ve come to expect. This upheaval is leading to increased anxiety and depression for many teens, and their parents are left figuring out how to help their struggling teen.
If your teen already struggles with depression or anxiety, you have likely seen an uptick in their symptoms in the months since the COVID-19 crisis began. Teens already experience a lot of pressure from school, home, and social expectations. Now, all of those expectations have shifted dramatically.
Generally, people don’t react well to sudden change, and teens are no exception. When expectations suddenly change, teens can start to experience more severe depression and anxiety.
Signs and symptoms of depression and anxiety in teens
Teens often struggle to express their feelings when something is wrong. If you have noticed that your teen has been acting differently throughout the COVID-19 crisis, take note of the changes.
There are a plethora of ways that teens show the signs and symptoms of depression and anxiety. These are a few of the more noticeable symptoms:
Not wanting to do things that used to make them happy
Becoming easily annoyed or irritated
Changes in sleep patterns (not sleeping or sleeping too much)
Drug and alcohol use
Giving up on their personal hygiene
Changes in eating patterns
If you are noticing any of the signs and symptoms of depression and anxiety in your teen, there are several steps you can take to help them. If your teen is already in therapy, contact their therapist to share your concerns. If they have not yet seen a therapist, they may need to start. Involving trained mental health experts who work with teens could be helpful for your teen.
How parents can help at home
Understanding their stressors
For many teens, the added worry about what’s happening in the world is compounding their usual level of stress. For introverted teens who used to worry about social pressure, the time away from school might actually be nice. They don’t have to pretend to care about things that don’t interest them, and they get more time at home.
More extroverted teens, or teens with a stressful home life, might be struggling without their usual coping mechanisms. If they’re stuck at home without their friends and without their usual activities, their anxiety and depression may have increased.
Developing their coping skills
Since your teenager can’t utilize their usual coping skills, you might have to teach them some new ones.
If they typically spend a lot of time hanging out with their friends, encourage them to set up an online chat session with their friends. Zoom might feel a little too formal for them to enjoy, but there are plenty of apps that are more appealing to teens. Explore some options like Houseparty or Animal Crossing.
Encourage your teen to spend more quality time with the family. If they don’t enjoy the things that the rest of the family typically enjoys, try to find a middle ground. Is there something that they enjoy that the rest of the family would be willing to try?
If your teen enjoys drawing or playing music, encourage them to spend some time fine-tuning their art. Many people, both teens and adults, find that art is a great outlet for expressing their feelings. Getting them to productively express the tension and worry that they’re feeling can help give them some relief.
Reminding them that there’s hope
Remember that the COVID-19 crisis has disrupted your teen’s life during two separate school years. For adults, a school year might not seem like an especially long time. For high school students, two school years is half of their entire high school experience. That level of disruption can seem insurmountable to teenagers.
Remind them that there is a future beyond COVID-19. Help them plan for returning to their hobbies and the activities that they miss. If they feel hopeless and don’t want to think about the future, contact a mental health professional for help.
Resources for parents outside of the home
Therapeutic boarding schools can help teens struggling with depression and anxiety that have been exacerbated by the pandemic. For many teens, the uncertainty of day-to-day living through the pandemic has made their depression and anxiety worse. The stability that a therapeutic boarding school provides creates a level of certainty that is otherwise lacking.
If you have a teenage boy struggling with his mental health, consider sending him to Sundance Canyon Academy, a therapeutic boarding school that specializes in helping teen boys with depression and anxiety. Contact us to discuss how to help your teen.