These last few weeks, any screen you turn on from social media to the news, there’s someone talking about Coronavirus, or COVID-19. The COVID-19 situation is constantly changing, often several times per day, so it’s no surprise that anxiety levels stay elevated.
Tips for Talking to Teens and Young Adults About Coronavirus
Here are the challenges many parents experience when trying to understand older childrens’ perspectives about the Coronavirus.
- Teens and young adults, just like us, need information, but not too much information. News and social media definitely make this tricky!
- Many families are having to make adjustments to work and school schedules, and in many cases shift to more time at home and online distance learning. As challenging as this shift is for some, try to view this time as an opportunity to connect with your teens and young adults living at home.
- Developmentally, adolescents are experiencing a lot of changes. They are figuring out their identity, which comes with a good amount of anxiety and uncertainty. Throw in a global pandemic and take away school, the state of the world right now is adding to their anxiety and uncertainty.
So what is a parent to do? You are overwhelmed, confused, anxious. Your teen is the same.
Here are some tips for managing anxiety about Coronavirus with your teen or young adult:
Avoid news and social media that causes you to feel overly anxious. Limit checking the news to specific times of the day (twice per day, for example) ONLY. Get the facts you need, and turn it off. Also, be sure to get facts from trusted sources to avoid being confused by rumors and media hype. Find some positive news about Coronavirus and discuss together.
Ask them what they know about the Coronavirus already, have conversations about any misinformation they may have. Also, ask them what questions they have.
If you are unsure of the answer to their questions, it’s OK! Use reliable sources and look for answers together, such as www.CDC.gov or www.WHO.int.
Safety & Security
The amount of unknown and the constant flow of information as it constantly comes out tends to create a deep fear of simply not knowing. This fear is multiplied when the health and safety of ourselves and loved ones could be in question. People are afraid of the unknown. It makes us feel unsafe. The internet is full of questions about “what’s coming next” and “how bad is it going to be?”
Anxiety also sparks a need to gain a sense of control. We want to be able to be in control of our own well being. In this situation, we don’t know exactly what needs to be done or what step to take, which leaves us feeling helpless and scared. While this is a normal response of our brain to an uncertain situation, it’s important to be aware if anxiety starts to spiral out of control.
In teens and young adults, their sense of safety and security revolves around how they are impacted as an individual. They may wonder what this means for their job, their health, or their school. Even if they don’t show it.
Older teens and young adults don’t yet have a complete understanding about the “big picture.” For many, they can’t understand how a global pandemic can spread and affect millions around them. That’s why we continue to see young people on social media upset – even outraged – that beaches, bars and restaurants are closed when they are trying to have spring break.
They also feel more optimistic and less fearful as they are becoming more independent and moving toward adulthood.
Try to have some patience and use this as an opportunity to have conversations with your child about the media and reliable sources of information. The CDC and WHO are excellent sources to fact-check and understand the state of Coronavirus/COVID-19 on any given day.
Stress relief & self care
Talk to your teen or young adult about positive ways to cope with stress, and model those coping skills. Practice techniques for relieving stress if you feel your anxiety spiraling out of control. Try some deep breathing and/or meditation. Read a book. Exercise. Take a walk. Play with your dog. Work a puzzle. Play a game.
If you, your teen or young adult are having trouble regaining control of your anxiety, or you are struggling in your day to day functioning due to excessive and unproductive anxiety, seek the help of a therapist who specializes in treating anxiety.
The Coronavirus pandemic will run its course. Schools and businesses will not be shut down forever. Above all, remember to take care of yourself and take measures to alleviate stress and anxiety.