The coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) is a challenging time for both teens and parents, with everyone spending much more time at home than usual and teens missing out on regular schooling and social activities. This disruption to routines can take a serious toll on mental health.
Even if your teen doesn’t seem to want your help, there are things you can do to help them cope with their current circumstances. They include recognising the signs that they’re struggling, and helping them to access mental health support through Telehealth.
Notice the signs
Even with good routines and habits in place, mental health can suffer during this time. Here are some signs that your teen may be struggling, and feeling depressed or anxious:
- They are finding it hard to get out of bed, are sleeping more or less than usual, or are always tired.
- They’ve stopped taking care with their appearance or personal hygiene.
- They’re eating more or less than usual.
- They’ve become withdrawn, avoiding friends, family and activities they used to enjoy.
- They have outbursts of anger or irritability.
- They’re tense and restless.
- They’re engaging in risky behaviours.
- They’re self-critical (e.g. they refer to themselves as ‘worthless’ or ‘stupid’).
How to have the conversation
If you think your teen is struggling, it’s important to talk to them about it. Here are some tips for checking in:
- Pick a time when you’re not rushed and a place where your teen feels comfortable.
- Some conversation starters include: ‘I’ve noticed that you’ve been sad/withdrawn/not yourself lately. Let’s talk about what’s happening’, or ‘I’m worried about you. Can we talk?’
- Be honest with them if you feel a bit awkward talking to them about mental health.
- Tune into their feelings. Ask them how they’re feeling, and then really listen to them. Don’t rush to fill silences or to offer solutions.
- Don’t dismiss or downplay their feelings, even if hearing about them makes you uncomfortable. Mental health difficulties can happen at any age.
- Ask them what they need in order to feel better, and what you can do to support them. Remind them that they’re not alone.
- Good habits in a time of constant change
The rules around isolation are constantly changing, which can make young people feel worried, uncertain or anxious. The following are some tips to help your teen feel more secure and in control:
- Stay informed about the current rules in your state, and provide your teen with up-to-date and age-appropriate information. Try to stay hopeful and positive, but be realistic.
- Plan family routines to help your teen feel safe and secure. Regular bed and meal times, and routines around household chores, school work, fun activities and down time, are great for physical and mental health.
- Help your teen plan how to structure their time, and to break large goals into smaller, achievable daily goals.
Getting professional help
Many young people struggle with their mental health in isolation, despite good routines and family support. Professional support can help your teen find a solution, or a combination of things, that suits them. Some options are:
- Online and phone support (such as Kids Helpline, e-headspace and Youth Beyond Blue).
- Psychological therapy – a psychologist will work with your teen over several sessions to manage their mental health symptoms.
- Medication – this can be prescribed by a medical professional, such as a GP or psychiatrist.
- Encourage your teen to see a GP they trust, or who has an interest in mental health, to discuss their difficulties and figure out the next step, which may include referral to a psychologist or psychiatrist.
Many health-care professionals are currently offering Telehealth consultations (over the phone or by video). So, even if your teen is staying home, they can receive the help they need.
For more information visit: https://parents.au.reachout.com/
Visit our Links page for a list of organisations you can contact for mental health support: https://heavymetalgroup.com.au/links/