Parenting Teens During Challenging Times
Many of us won’t dispute, 2020 has been a difficult year. The pressures that the ongoing pandemic have placed on all of us have been challenging, especially for students who have had to adapt to online learning overnight.
During this uncertain time, it’s not only school that have our youth concerned. The rise of mental health issues among children and teens since the beginning of the pandemic have many parents and health professionals worried.
According to a study in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (JAACAP) we are now seeing children and adolescents with higher rates of depression and anxiety resulting from the required isolation and loneliness of COVID-19.
The latest findings in a new survey released by ParentsTogether, of hundreds of kids and parents are very troubling.
The majority of kids, 70 percent reported feeling sad, overwhelmed and worried — while nearly half the parents (44 percent) are saying that their kid’s are struggling with mental wellness since the pandemic started.
Although almost half (47 percent) are worried about their child’s mental health, 45 percent are experiencing more challenging behavior from their kids since the pandemic.
In another study from the National 4-H Council, it concurred that the pandemic is having a great impact on teen’s mental wellness.
Some of the key findings:
- 81% of teens say mental health is a significant issue for young people in the U.S., and 64% of teens believe that the experience of COVID-19 will have a lasting impact on their generation’s mental health.
- In this stressful climate, 7 in 10 teens have experienced struggles with mental health.
- 55% of teens say they’ve experienced anxiety, 45% excessive stress, and 43% depression.
- 61% of teens said that COVID-19 pandemic has increased their feeling of loneliness.
- Teens today report spending 75% of their waking hours on screens during COVID-19.
- 82% of teens calling on America to talk more openly and honestly about mental health issues in this country.
- 79% of teens surveyed wish there was an inclusive environment or safe space for people in school to talk about mental health.
Rise of teen defiance
There’s no shortage of parents crying out for help. If you were struggling with your teenage prior the pandemic, chances are you are at your wit’s end now. From social distancing to wearing masks, teens are not making life easy for parents.
As an Educational Consultant for 20 years I’ve helped families of struggling teens. In the past 6 months the numbers have spiked of moms and dads are walking on eggshells with their teenagers. Defiance, rage, depression, anxiety, rebellious – teens that runaway for days only to come back and put their family at risk of COVID.
Some recent comments from parents over the past several months have been:
- His poor emotional regulation has gotten worse since Covid-19 and he is now depressed feeling like nothing ever works out for him. – parent of 16 year-old boy
- He has been stealing repeatedly and it has only gotten worse with lying as well during COVID. – parent of 15 year-old boy
- Depression and lack of motivation due to COVID pandemic. – parent of 18 year-old boy
- With COVID she’s acting out aggressively, defiant and always seems depressed. – parent of a 14 year old girl
Sharing this information is to help parents understand, they are not alone.
Helping teens emotionally handle these trying times
Everyone is suffering during this pandemic on some level. The ParentsTogether survey concluded that families that made $50,000 a year or less, their children were twice as likely to struggle with anger issues, sadness, loneliness and fear.
Rich or poor, parents are equally concerned about their child’s mental wellness – and searching for answers.
Michele Borba, PH.D., educational psychologist, created a series on Helping Kids and Teens Thrive in Uncertain Times, during this pandemic to educate parents on understanding the emotions their children and teens are facing.
“The pandemic has added stress to how teens are feeling. They were already stressed before COVID-19, now it has just doubled because of their concerns and worries for the future,” said Dr. Borba, “A change in behavior, such as acting out, defiance and tantrums can all be signs your teen or child emotionally is suffering,” she continues.
Teenagers are particularly vulnerable to depression and other mental health challenges. If you suspect your child is suffering from depression, ask your family doctor or pediatrician to provide you with a referral to an appropriate mental health professional. “No one knows your child or teen better than you. If you suspect something is wrong, chances are you’re right,” says Borba.
3 Ways to improve teen wellness:
- Exercise: Download a yoga app or exercise with your friends (virtually).
- Music: Listening to certain music is the 2nd popular answer to what teen’s said helped them cope with the stress and worry of the pandemic.
- Journal: Writing is very therapeutic and helping young people express their emotions.