Helping Teens Cope During a Global Pandemic?

Many parents are concerned that the pandemic and its impact on their adolescent’s academic, social, athletic, or artistic lives will have lasting negative consequences. Parents – and kids – feel they “missed out” on the several month’s significant activities and they may not be able to recover. While there are many areas that were affected, your teens should not be struggling with incredible delays or permanent loss. Parents need to help their teens curtail their reliance on social media in many significant areas of their life and insist on life experiences. 

Teens Cope During a Global Pandemic

Teens Cope During a Global Pandemic

The pandemic was characterized by levels of uncertainty and isolation that we had not dealt with before. Both of those conditions posed unique challenges for adolescents. We typically raise our teens on a very linear path; get good grades, excel at a sport or music (a passion), get high ACT or SAT scores if you are looking at college, and then everything else will fall into place.

The pandemic forced teens to consider different paths, think in a nonlinear path that they had never had to consider previously. This manifested in a loss of identity. Then the other area teens typically get considerable reassurance from is their social world. Covid protocols forced isolation for extended periods of time. Adolescence who are hardwired to be highly social and explore relationships and independent activities were suddenly shut down. 

Teens were forced to rely on screens and social media for the majority of their social connections. Help teens cope during a global pandemic! Without the ability to actively engage with each other, teens felt incredible anxiety and loneliness. Parents felt sorry for their kids so they began to be more permissive than usual. While this helped assuage parents’ guilt in the short term parents are now struggling with how to reinstate rules and address their teen’s anxiety and lack of self-confidence.  

Parents need to parent from a position of the high structure, high nurture, to overcome the setbacks of the pandemic. Kids of any age but particularly adolescents thrive when they know what is expected of them and when they have unconditional support. Teens are expected to falter as they develop their individual identities. It is more critical now than ever that parents set clear expectations and work with their adolescents to help them regain a sense of self-confidence and self-efficacy.

When there are many elements in a teen’s life that seem out of their control they tend to take it personally and they close themselves off. This is what parents are seeing in their teens right now. It is critical to fall back on the basics of parenting because it provides security and allows your teens to focus on small achievable goals. This quickly builds confidence and alleviates the stress and anxiety that has characterized the covid shutdown. 

Going back to the basics of parenting is a means of rebooting if you will. Teens need their parents to guide them through the stress of this time by encouraging them to face their challenges one at a time with flexibility and creativity in real-time. Social media provided a false sense of security to teens because they learned they really couldn’t connect with people or experiences in a meaningful way. Parents can counteract this pervasive sense of inadequacy and dejection.  Parents must show they have confidence in their teen’s ability to handle this unprecedented time,  and it will carry over to their children. 

The key for parents is to endure their teen’s discomfort. The emotional support and their parent’s conviction that they not only can do hard things but they will be successful when challenged will help your teen reset. Humans are experiential and learn through experiences teens are particularly wired this way. Worry less about what they may have lost and help them to recover by focusing on the parts of their lives they can have control over. Teens’ resilience will surface.

About the Author:
Darby Fox, LCSW, is a child and adolescent family therapist in private practice in Connecticut and New York. With over twenty years of experience, she is an expert on parenting, child psychology, and family topics. Appearing regularly on-air and in print media, Fox covers a range of topics, from parenting questions and discipline techniques to current trends in child development. She has also collaborated with Meath Media Group to develop a television series called Fractured Family with Darby Fox. Learn more about Darby @ Darbyfox.com and follow her on social media: IG  | Twitter

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