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How Do I Get Through This? A Guide for Teens, and Parents of Teens, During COVID-19 Stay-At-Home Orders

A Teen Guide to Surviving COVID-19 at Home

Feeling down, anxious, or tired during this crisis can be challenging. We are away from school, family, friends, and our normal routines. But there are some things we can do to help ourselves and each other get through this. Check out the video below for some tips and tricks to boost your mental health during physical distancing. – Cody Welty

This video for Teens was created by Cody Welty, a graduate student in the Zuckerman College of Public Health.

You Asked, We Delivered

Following on the success of her Toolkit for Parents to talk to kids about COVID-19, public health researcher and clinical psychologist Patricia Haynes heard from many parents of teenagers about how their kids were struggling because they were housebound during the stay-at-home orders implemented in so many states.

With schools closed, sports suspended, and teens confined at home so they can’t see their friends in person, many teenagers are feeling lonely, bored, and frustrated.

Cody Welty created a video to help teens through the mental health challenges of this long stay-at-home period.

A Video for Parents of Teens: We Know It's Not Easy

Here’s a Guide for Parents of Teens about how to support their kids during stay-at-home orders. Rebecca Wolf, a graduate student at the Zuckerman College of Public Health, discusses ways for parents to support independence and develop balanced responses.

A List of Coping Strategies for Parents of Teens

Similar to the video, but in written form, here are our suggestions for Parents of Teens.

  • Distance From Friends is Hard. One of the things we know about teenagers is that they rely on their friends as a primary source of support. Being physically isolated from friends is particularly difficult for teens during COVID-19. It’s probably not realistic to assume that family will substitute for friendships.
  • Acknowledge Loss. Teens have lost time with friends, and they have lost the opportunity to participate in the usual extracurricular activities and events, like prom and graduation. You may see your teen experiencing grief, which includes feeling sad, tired, or irritated. You can identify these feelings for your teen.
  • Independence Interrupted. Teenagers may also struggle with the loss of their newfound independence. Teens naturally begin to create distance between themselves and their parents as preparation for their transition to adulthood. Being stuck at home with their parents and siblings interrupts that transition to independence, and makes it difficult to exercise the freedom that they naturally crave at this age. Consider creative ways to increase responsibilities and offer new household freedoms.
  • Balance Structure and Independence. To address the challenges of our new circumstances, it will probably be beneficial to balance structure and independence.
    • Set expectations about family time. For instance, you may want to let them know that it is expected that they eat dinner every day with the rest of the family. (Lower Title: Set Expectations About Family Time)
    • Establish a loose daily schedule with your teen, a framework when they wake up, go to bed, eat, exercise, and do homework at approximately the same time every day. Allow deviations for spontaneous, fun activities. (Lower Title: Establish A Schedule)
  • Support Contact with Friends. Teens generally see their friends at school and might not be accustomed to frequent digital socializing with their friends beyond texting or using social media. Encourage and support virtual opportunities for your teen to socialize. This could include suggesting that they schedule a FaceTime meeting with one friend or a small group of friends at a particular time. Or, if there are a limited number of devices in your house, you could offer a computer or tablet to your teen at a particular time so they could meet with friends. (Lower Title: Encourage Digital Connection with Friends)
  • Don’t Worry Too Much About Screen Time. Many experts have asserted that the traditional screen time rules do not apply during the pandemic. Most middle school and high school students are expected to shift to online learning along with homework. Additionally, teenagers still want to see their friends, which has to happen via FaceTime or Zoom. Try your best to manage screens so that your children don’t spend all day on devices but don’t worry too much if they are getting a lot more screen time than usual.
  • Be Supportive. Despite their desire for independence, teens still look to their parents for security. If your teen is willing to discuss their feelings with you, allow them to talk freely and listen. Let them know you care about their feelings and how they are doing. Let them know that you have concerns as well, and discuss ways that you can support one another.
  • Take A Breath. You might be frustrated with your teenager. This would be a good time to practice deep breathing, or take a break from a conversation when it begins to feel nonproductive – you can be sure to come back and address the issue later. If you have a co-parent who lives with you, talk about how you can support one another when you feel frustrated by your teen. Perhaps you could also find a group of friends who are facing similar challenges, and set up regular Zoom or FaceTime meetings.


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