5 National Drugs and Alcohol Facts Week Teen Mental Health

National Drugs & Alcohol Facts Week: Teen Mental Health

How to support your teen’s mental health during a pandemic

Teens have plenty to be stressed about under even normal circumstances. Unfortunately, the social distancing that is required to deal with the coronavirus pandemic comes with its own set of new stresses, to say nothing of the anxiety about what this means for the future.

Unfortunately, we know that stress is a risk factor for substance abuse, and long-term stress is not good for mental health.

First, what is the best way to talk to a teen about the pandemic? First, make sure they are ready and open to having the conversation. Ask what they have heard, and gently clarify any inaccuracies. Be honest, but still reassure their safety while taking precautions necessary during the pandemic. The Texas A&M University College of Education & Human Development has put together a great guide with more details about that conversation, as well as how to talk to children of other ages as well. Here’s another great guide from the New York Times about how to help teens manage anxiety about the coronavirus specifically.

Many of the ways to deal with the stress of social distancing and stress over the pandemic are the ways experts always encourage. Spend some time together doing an enjoyable activity, such as a family game or movie. Listen to your teen. Monitor their time and content on social media and encourage them to take a break from the coverage of the coronavirus. Encourage them to find fun ways to stay physically active (bonus points if you do it together!) and provide plenty of healthy foods. See that they are getting an appropriate amount of sleep. And of course, be a role model for these stress-management techniques as well. Practicing gratitude, breathing, and grounding techniques can help as well.

What are signs that your teen is too stressed that you need to worry about?

According to the CDC, “Some preteens and teenagers respond to trauma by acting out. This could include reckless driving, and alcohol or drug use. Others may become afraid to leave the home. They may cut back on how much time they spend with their friends. They can feel overwhelmed by their intense emotions and feel unable to talk about them. Their emotions may lead to increased arguing and even fighting with siblings, parents/caregivers or other adults.”

If your teen’s behavior is concerning you, While at Home is a great resource with tools accessible while practicing social distancing.

Remember, you as the parent are the single greatest influence in the life of your teen. Although COVID-19 has undoubtedly added to your list of things to manage, make sure you don’t lose sight of how this season is impacting your teen. With your help, your son or daughter can make it through the pandemic stronger than before.