Published:  11:56 AM, 18 May 2021 Last Update: 12:02 PM, 18 May 2021

Help your teens stay mentally healthy during the pandemic

Help your teens stay mentally healthy during the pandemic

-Tasneem Hossain

All of us go through certain phases of life and the transition period between these phases can be exciting but can also be uncomfortable. One such early transition is between puberty and adulthood that is joyful as well as challenging for child and parent alike. Many emotional and behavioral problems may emerge in the child as it is a time of dramatic changes in the body and deep emotional changes. Unless dealt cautiously, these changes in teenage years may cause emotional stress leading to depression and anxiety.

The pandemic has an upside down effect on our lives. This is a time when almost everyone is experiencing stress and anxiety in different intensities. School closures and social distancing has reduced teens’ social interactions and meet up with friends, putting a strain on their mental health.

As parents, we are also stressed out managing our physical and emotional response to these huge lifestyle changes. We might be able to manage this stress but teenagers may not be equipped to cope on their own so It’s really important for parents to step in and help them in their times of doubled stress in a positive manner. 

Possible strategies:

Be available when your child needs you. Encourage them to express their feelings openly. Talking about stressful situations with a trusted adult can take a load off from their chests. But remember, adolescence means independence too. Try to give your teen the appropriate privacy.

Be a good role model. Share your feelings of isolation with them and how you are dealing with your own stressful situations. Whether they admit it or not, teens learn from their parents, and one of the best ways to teach stress management techniques is by setting  good examples. 

Maintaining the school or college day routine will help them to concentrate on their work. Though it might be tempting to make a plan for them, ask them to write down their daily plan on paper. Later, sit with them and discuss how it can be improved. 

With the extra free time, help them find enjoyable habits like planting in pots, learning to make food, drawing, reading or writing, playing board games. These fun activities will provide distraction for the brain, relieving stress. They can join online music classes too. Experts suggest that everyone has the ability to respond to music. It facilitates positive changes and has a calming effect.

Encourage them to exercise. Joining online dance classes works too. Physical movement of any kind is a stress reliever. Join them in these physical activities to form a healthy bond helping them to open up and build trust.

If possible to maintain social distancing, encourage them to go outside. Accompany them. Have fun running together and exercising in the park. Spending time out in nature is an effective way to minimize stress and improves overall well-being.  

Physical exercise will also help them sleep well. Experts recommend eight to 10 hours sleep at night for teenagers. It keeps stress in check. To have a good night’s sleep, limit all kinds of screen use at night.

Teach them deep breathing exercises to help in proper intake of oxygen for relaxation. Moreover, deep breathing exercises will also help to get equipped to battle the virus.

The use of technology or social media has become an integral part of our lives. Unfortunately the websites or social media is bombarded with negative news and misinformation.  Help them in trying to filter out the negatives and focus more on the positives. Monitored use of television, online games, social media and video chat programs can provide opportunities for them to learn, enjoy, connect with their friends.

Reassure them that this period of self-isolation is temporary. Tell them of the previous pandemics and how people survived. Letting them know that they are not the only victims may help curb their stress to a minimum level and make them hopeful of the future. 

As parents, while discussing issues with children, choose words carefully in a positive,loving manner. While discussing you can use phrases like “I understand your concern” or “it sounds like a difficult situation” The child will feel your empathy. Harsh words may make them go into a cocoon shell.

Having meals together also helps strengthen family ties and reduces stress. Have easy conversations. Surprise them with their favorite dish. They will feel loved. 

Motivate them to keep a diary in expressing their feelings. Tell them also to write about some positive things and things they are grateful for. Writing helps reduce mental distress and improves sense of well being. Do it yourself too. If possible share some of the thoughts which might lead to some fun and laughter easing relationships and making them relaxed.

Children and teens easily fall into the trap of negative thinking. When they use negative self-talk encourage them to think of times when they did well in their work. Learning to think positively will help them develop resilience to stress.
It’s important for both teens and parents to understand that it’s impossible to eliminate stress completely. As parents there are many things we can do to help reduce a child's anxiety and build a better parent-child relationship. 

Utilize this time of isolation positively to build good rapport with them. Have a gala dance night with all the members participating. Arrange an art exhibition, play Antakshari or some board games; let your child lead the exercise class. Praise them, hug them, and tell them you love them. Make them feel loved.It is important to show that you love and support them and you will always be there for them.

If stress continues to be a concern, immediately seek professional assistance of a psychologist or counselor. 

Our children are our priority: Take action NOW! 

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own for informational purposes only. It is not intended as a substitute for consultation with a licenced healthcare practitioner.

Tasneem Hossain is a multilingual poet, columnist, op-ed columnist and training consultant. She is the Director of Continuing Education Centre, Bangladesh.

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