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Check Your Health: Teen mental health during the coronavirus pandemic

Check Your Health - Adolescent Mental Health

Your teens likely have a lot of questions about the coronavirus and how it is impacting their life. They could be going through a difficult time and feeling a lot of different emotions. The coronavirus pandemic canceled many events they were likely looking forward to like prom and graduation.

Your teens may be experiencing a sense of loss or disappointment right now. Acknowledge that your teens are trying to cope with big changes and loss, no spring sports, graduation is limited, yearbook signings, seeing peers regularly and other transitions.

"The loss might not be something we typically think of, like when it comes to the loss of a loved one, but in this sense we are losing a lot of transitional age and developmentally appropriate things that kids normally go through," said Eric Tadehara, assistant director of Children's Behavioral Health. "I think it is ok for them to be upset and for you as a parent to acknowledge that."

Talk to your teens. Be open with them. Validate their feelings, and let them know it is ok to be upset, confused, mad,etc. Teens may show a lot of different emotions.

"It's important for parents to be open and honest with their teens when it comes to the changes and disappointments they may face because of coronavirus," said Tadehara. "I think when we allow them to steer the conversation, it allows them to be a lot more open about how they are feeling and what they are feeling, especially with a lot of these emotions that are different than what we normally go through."

If you are concerned for your teen's mental health, look for big changes in their personality.

"The important thing right now is to not pay attention to small changes, but to really look at a large number of changes that are happening at once. If your teen is not really wanting to engage anymore, if they are not liking things they used to really enjoy," said Tadehara.

Let them know what the summer will look like. Lots of programs are cancelled or will be cancelling. Let them give feedback on what they want to do this summer.

Continue to set routines; have set schedules for school, chores, family time, and social time. This helps give them structure and a sense of normalcy.

If you are having a difficult time getting your teen to engage with the family, get creative. Encourage creativity and foster ways to help them stay connected with family and friends. This can include cooking game nights, videoing friends/family and new hobbies.

"I think it is important to look at things such as cooking or other family type activities such as games etc., can really help as kids are trying to foster creativity and stop being bored," said Tadehara.

Mental Health services and resources are still available during this time. If you are concerned for your teen, you can call the Utah crisis line: 1-800-273-TALK.