Updated: Jun 6, 2020
Imagine one of your busiest days. Now, imagine getting through that day without the ability to make decisive choices or think all the way through to the end of a problem. Just to make it interesting, let’s flood your bloodstream with hormones that make you feel a little out of control. Akin to being pregnant. Remember that time you (or your partner) cried in Target?
Yeah, like that. We will then ask that you make decisions – preeetty big ones – without any prior experience. This is what being a teenager can feel like on a good day. Throw in a worldwide pandemic and it gets even more interesting.
In a recent Porter Ranch Counseling blog with Dr. Laurel Wiig, we discussed some of the new worries that have entered our lives as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. While some of those may have changed, we are still all facing adjustments that we couldn’t have anticipated even 6 months ago. And our children are no exception. Teens may be particularly feeling impacted by changes. They may be experiencing financial changes either within the family or from losing their own part time job. They may be losing an internship or volunteer hours they were counting on for their college applications or self fulfillment. Will they even be attending college next year now?
They may be having a hard time complying with current social distances rules being predisposed to push back against rules in general while also not possessing a fully developed frontal lobe to regulate decision making, governing immediate gratification and thinking about the future. This lack may also lead to the idea that they won’t catch the virus or the symptoms won’t be as severe for them. They are definitely missing out on events – spring breaks, class trips, sports, and dances. And being much more social creatures than we are, the socializing and comfort of their peers.
What are a few of the signs that a teen is stressed or feeling anxious?
They could be acting out more than normal with extra tears or anger. You may see them withdrawal or engage in negative self talk. They may complain of physical symptoms like headache or stomach ache or have a change in sleep habits, separation anxiety, a need for excessive reassurance, or repetitive behaviors. They may even directly express their stress or anxiety.
Every good conversation starts with good listening.” - Mike Arauz.
Here are a handful of approaches you may want to take to help your teen cope:
Start by asking what they already know. This is the time to address any misinformation your teen may have. Ask what questions and concerns they have. The unknown can produce anxiety. Encourage them to focus on what they can control. Ask them to come back to you with questions as they come up or as they get more information.
Get the facts from reliable sources like The World Health Organization, The National Health Service, or The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Select a few and limit it to those so you don’t get overwhelmed.
Limit media coverage.
Admit to them that we’ve never done this before but we will figure it out. This is a good time to have a talk about how this is hard but we can do hard things. Encourage them to find moments of humor and sparkle and to seek out the good in people and the world.
Validate their feelings of anger, sadness, hopelessness, stress, worry and anxiety. They may not have our adult problems but their problems and pain around them are real. There is a certain magic in feeling like you are heard.
Help them map out a new normal. Empower them to design a schedule that includes getting enough sleep, fresh air, exercise, and hobbies. Help them to eat well and limit sugar and caffeine intake to reduce anxious feelings. Empower them to feel good about taking care of themselves and improve self esteem and confidence.
Show them (and yourself) some grace. We are all in a stressful situation and may not be at our best.
Reach out for help. In the Porter Ranch Counseling blog on teletherapy, therapy through video, we talk about how the whole family can benefit by participating in therapy sessions via video chat. You don’t have to do this alone.
Donation Based Front Line Workers Therapy
If you are or know a front line worker that could use some extra supportduring this time, send them over to our Coffee Talk Series to assist them with stressors, traumas or evening relationship issues.
"See the flowers, not the weeds."