Just when I think we are getting a grip on Ashton’s mental health issues, we get thrown another curve ball. Teen life is super difficult no matter what, then add mental health issues and you have diabolic situation on your hands. Now throw in a third element like COVID-19 and the situation reaches astronomical proportions. COVID-19 has arrived in South Africa and is waging war making it even harder. With schools having closed a few days earlier and the holidays being extended, teens haven’t had time to process the changes. Teen mental health amidst COVID-19 is vitally important so here’s a few strategies to consider.
My teen will be missing out on several events that he was looking forward to like the Heineken F1 Joburg Festival, King of the Whip and Huawei Joburg Day in the Park 2020. In fact we had already purchased these tickets and he had penciled them into his diary. Social distancing however has far reaching effects for teenagers like everyday moments like spent with their friends and participating in class. Yes, Ashton even said he would miss class to my surprise. He added that not being able to leave the house to go to the movies and Starbucks, as well as a change in scenery makes him grumpy. He was excited by the fact that he doesn’t need to hug or shake peoples hands because, “Ewww”.
9 Strategies to help your teen deal with COVID-19
1. Teen anxiety is completely normal
If school closures and alarming headlines are making you feel anxious, you are not the only one. In fact, your teen is feeling it more and a 21 day national lock down is uncharted territory for South Africa as a whole. While anxiety is a normal response, managing it in a time of crisis is key.
2. Avoid false news
Anxiety around COVID-19 is completely understandable, but make sure your teen is accessing reliable sources of information. Fake news is doing the rounds especially on social media. Chances that your teen stumbles across fake news is highly likely. Make a point to watch the news with them and help dispel any concerns, fears or misunderstandings as they arise.
3. A positive support system
Stress the importance of your teen surrounding themselves with positive and kind individuals. Now more than ever your teen needs support but may not want to chat to you about what they are experiencing. Having a good support system in friends or close family will also be beneficial to them.
4. Have a schedule
Teens may disagree but a flexible schedule does them a world of wonders. It provides structure, security and a sense of comfort. It also prevents them from spending way too much time alone, overthinking things. Including creative distractions for them provides a relief and balance in the day-to-day. Ashton’s loves to read and do anything art related. Sky loves to game. Our schedule, though not rigid incorporates their fav hobbies and interests.
5. Find new ways to connect with your friends
This generation of teens is highly privileged when it comes to ways of connecting. Now is not the time to take away their cellphones or be overly strict. They need to have contact with their friends and technology is actually your best friend. Monitor screen time and sites visited through open communication. Make sure to read my article about online safety for parents and teens to help keep them safe.
6. Gratitude journal daily
I swear by living a life of gratitude as it has served me well in my life. Gratitude journalling is good for one’s mental health. Ashton rises each morning and starts his day off by writing in his gratitude journal. Keeping a log of what we are thankful for can lower stress, help you sleep better and may even reduce the risk of heart disease.
7. Feel all the feels
Missing out on events with friends, hobbies or sport activities is a large-scale loss, therefore being highly upsetting for teenagers. Processing feelings looks different for everyone, so understand your child and their needs. Allow them to feel all the feels. Its okay for them to go through the motions without constantly questioning their moods. Instead monitor from a distance and chat when necessary.
8. Exercise daily
Exercise plays a vital role in maintaining a good mental health. It releases chemicals like endorphins and serotonin that improve ones mood. If you exercise regularly, it can reduce stress and symptoms of mental health conditions like depression and anxiety. It also helps with recovery from mental health issues. It’s also a great way for families to connect and to pass away the time.
9. Learn a new skill
The National shutdown is the perfect way to to teach your teens new skills. Think baking, cooking, getting crafty, gardening and yoga for example. I’m throwing in a lot of house cleaning and home renovations. Learning a new skill will promote a sense of accomplish and they may even discover a hidden talent.
We send love, virtual hugs and positive vibes from our family to yours during this trying time. We will continue to keep you and every South African in our hearts and prayers. Please feel free to connect with us daily through our social media platforms on Facebook and Instagram. We look forward to connecting with you during the 21 day lockdown.