Protecting Mental Health for Teens during Crisis Times

By request: Protecting Mental Health for Teens during Crisis Times.

Protecting Mental Health for Teens during Crisis Times. Teens often experience anxiety during crisis times like COVID-19 quarantines. Here are ways to help.

Protecting Mental Health for Teens during Crisis Times

Covid-19 has many people feeling anxious and even depressed. In my work as a mental health counselor, I have noticed that many teens and adults are struggling. Some may be affected by the stress of lockdowns more than others. Some teens are experiencing clinical levels of anxiety and depression.

What does it look like if a teen is struggling during a crisis time?

  • Anger displayed in tone of voice, noncompliance
  • Isolation (Even from the family – spending all their time alone in the bedroom, not engaged in digital social or only negative digital communities. Check out Leah Nieman’s website for help managing the digitial world and teens.)
  • Peer and unusually high sibling conflicts
  • Feelings of guilt or powerlessness
  • Anxiety
    • This can look like physical symptoms: headache, chest pain, stomach ache, difficulty breathing (some of which, unfortunately, look like coronavirus symptoms and frighten teens).
  • Performance anxiety (more worried than usual about their ability to do well in school)
  • Substance use
  • Behavior problems
  • Eating problems
  • Seeking approval from adults outside the family
  • Lowered self-esteem
  • Feelings of abandonment or rejection
  • Depression (sadness, feelings of hopelessness, lethargy, difficulty focusing, loss of interest in things that normally hold their interest, wanting to isolate, lack of appetite/carb cravings)

What can you do to protect mental health for your teens during these crisis times?

Parents can help their teens by:

Get outside for improved mental health during tough times. Trees and sunlight enhance physical and emotional wellbeing during tough times.

  • Provide positive diversions and experiences

    • Social time with positive friends and family (when not on coronavirus quarantines)
    • Doing things together with family like cooking, games, puzzles, read alouds, movie nights
    • Zoom lunches with friends
    • Zoom school projects with friends
  • Find good deeds to do

  • Practice active listening

    • Talk about it (allow him/her to tell the story of what happened or is happening)- MANY times!
    • When they are telling you what is going on for them, just listen. Try not to:
      • interrupt
      • tell them you know how they feel (because you can guess how they feel but no one really, truly knows how their teen feels)
      • tell them they shouldn’t feel that way
      • start telling them stories about yourself
    • Even when they are not telling you their feelings, listen actively to them
    • Make eye contact while they are speaking
    • Reflect back what they say (without mocking):
      • “What I hear you saying is…”
      • “So what you are feeling is…?”
  • Do not judge

    • Teens’ feelings are their feelings. It does not help to judge.
  • Help them make positive predictions about the future

  • Give hugs and physical presence

    • Teens (like all children) need an occasional hug

Teach your teen to practice deep breathing to enhance mood, calmness and improve immune system.

  • Do not panic

    • If your teens’ feelings are scaring you, take a breath, pray and clear your head so you can take wise action
  • Take seriously their concerns or feelings of danger

    • Please do not simply hope their feelings will pass
    • If they are having feelings or thoughts of self harm or suicidal thoughts:
  • Err on the side of getting help

    • It is better to get help and not need it than need it and not get help
  • Seek help if it seems that the child is not bouncing back

Crisis times do not last. Unfortunately for teens, they have not lived long enough to know this. You can help them by practicing and teaching as many of these ideas as possible.

However, give yourself grace: if your teen is in a crisis time, you are probably in a crisis time also. The current COVID-19 crisis is scary. Remember that God has not given you a spirit of fear, but of power, love and a sound mind. Be kind to yourself and that will give you more energy for kindness to your teens.

Download 7SistersHomeschool.com’s Health curriculum to empower your teens for healthy living: spirit, soul and body.

 

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Protecting Mental Health for Teens during Crisis Times

Vicki Tillman

Blogger, curriculum developer at 7SistersHomeschool.com, counselor, life and career coach, SYMBIS guide, speaker, prayer person. 20+year veteran homeschool mom.

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