For three years, our world has been consumed by COVID-19. It has been the leader for many of the changes our country has faced and struggles people have been through, and reasons our teens are feeling lost now more than ever. The time away from friends and sports, the learning loss, and the increase in social anxiety, are just a few of the ways the COVID-19 shutdown harmed teens. It was a difficult time for everyone involved, but as teens have experienced less life and were forced to miss out on moments they have spent years excited for: graduations, dances, sports events, and more. However, now that lockdowns are behind us and masks are coming off, it’s time for our teens to learn to navigate life in a post-pandemic world.
Focus on Fun
Reduce anxiety about being in groups and figuring out being back in school by encouraging them to just let loose and have fun. Scheduling activities that they enjoy doing will help them to stay positive and boost their endorphins, which will, in turn, increase their mood. Let them visit places they used to enjoy before COVID that they may not have been able to attend throughout the lockdowns. Encourage them to attend local groups at churches or recreation centers to build new friendships while doing activities they like. Most local recreation centers have teen groups and classes that promote creativity, physical activity, and problem-solving.
Let your teen try to fix their problems on their own. While it’s natural to want to help them and make all their issues go away, it will only hinder them in the long run. Giving your teen the tools to problem solve independently will help them as they move into postsecondary education and employment. Have an open-door policy with your teen for them to bounce ideas off you and get advice on how to handle difficult situations. Build their confidence to implement the problem-solving strategies independently and praise them for any effort made! This will empower your teen to keep tackling difficult moments.
Continue Having Family Time
The last three years brought on a lot of family time for many people. Being stuck inside together required families to get creative with their activities. Whatever you and your family did to pass the time together, whether playing cards, watching movies, or baking, try to keep it up now that “normal” life has returned. Schedule a family game night or still continue to eat breakfast together every morning to keep that connection with each other strong.
Model What You Want Them to Do
Take care of yourself, get enough sleep, and have outlets that work for you. Whether that’s curling up on the couch with a good book, going for a run, or talking with a therapist, modeling healthy coping skills to your teen will increase their chances of adopting those skills! Encourage your teen to join you in your self-care practices. They might find a new hobby they enjoy, and it will be a positive way for the two of you to connect. Letting your teen see that making self-care a priority helps you stay calm and centered through difficult times will encourage them to do the same.
Speak Goodness Into Them
Remind your teen that the last few years have been difficult for everyone, and they need to have grace on themselves. Remind them of all their positive qualities and that they are resilient and have been able to tackle something no other generation has. The adversity teens faced during the pandemic is known to have altered the teen brain development, but by teaching them positive self talk, they can improve their mental health. Let them know that you are proud of the things they have done, and be specific in your affirmations! It will help boost their self-confidence and can keep them going in tackling hard moments.
Know When It’s Time to Step In
Many teens suffer anxiety and depression due to the pandemic. The isolation and stress put on teens during COVID-19 has made it difficult for them to manage to navigate returning to what life looked like a few years ago. If things are not improving with your teen’s mental health as life continues to return to normalcy, consider getting them more advanced help. There are numerous options available to help with your teens mental health including therapy, counseling, outpatient programs, and girls and boys residential treatment programs. Support can be found with a quick Google search or by reaching out to your family doctor.