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Is COVID-19 bringing your teen down?

A mom comforting her teenage daughter.

These past months of living with the fear and restrictions of COVID-19 have been enough to bring anyone down, but teens may be especially affected. They're missing friends as well as major events like prom and graduation.

It's normal for your teen to feel sad during these times. But how can you tell if they need a little extra emotional support? The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) suggests you look for these signs that your teen is struggling:

  • Unusual changes in mood or behavior. Is your teen irritable? Are they texting and talking to their friends less often than expected?
  • Lack of interest in things they used to enjoy.
  • Difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much.
  • Problems with memory or thinking.
  • Lack of personal hygiene.

How you can help

One of the best things you can do to help a struggling teen is to let them know you're there for them. Acknowledge their feelings of sadness and even anger.

Also, be a role model. Try to stay positive yourself. Express optimism that things will get better. The AAP and other health experts also suggest that you:

Talk honestly with your teen. Correct any misinformation about COVID-19 they may have in a calm, factual way. Stress the importance of staying home to stop the spread of the virus.

Encourage them to stay connected. Allow them to spend time video chatting with friends and loved ones. Let them play online games with friends.

Urge them to go for a walk or run outside. Just getting outside can help. Adding exercise to an outing can help even more. Also consider taking family walks after dinner. (Remember to keep at least 6 feet away from other people while social distancing.)

Steer them toward activities they can do at home. Maybe your local library has e-books online. Encourage your teen to do video workouts. They might enjoy creating a vlog of life during the pandemic. Or they could take a virtual tour of a museum.

Spend quality time together. Take part in an activity or conversation of your teen's choice with the goal of actively listening to them.

Encourage hobbies. Creative activities like building models or painting can instill a feeling of joy and accomplishment.

Limit daily news intake. This can help everyone in the household feel calmer.

Think your teen is depressed?

The AAP offers this checklist of signs your teen may be depressed. If you think this is the case, talk with your child's doctor. They can advise you on what steps to take next.

Looking for more information on COVID-19? Check out our Coronavirus health topic center.

Reviewed 6/29/2020

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