Health Check

How to guide teenagers through COVID-19

Beneath the poker face, your teenager may be feeling anxious about COVID-19 and going back to school. Here’s how you can guide them through it.

Written by Editor Medibank

Teenagers know everything.

Thanks to smartphones, you may already be getting daily COVID-19 briefings from yours.

But with so much information available, not to mention the misinformation out there, are they prepared to process everything that’s going on?

Add to this the regular disruptions to everyday life and isolation from friends, the constant stream of uncertainties and upheavals can take their toll on a young person’s mental health.

This period of COVID-normal living has been anything but normal. And it’s crucial that we recognise the impact it may be having on young minds; in social, school and home surroundings. Furthermore, it’s important to understand how to engage your teenager, to help them better cope with their feelings during the pandemic.

Talk about it

Allowing your teenager the safe space to talk openly about how they feel about the pandemic can go a long way to helping them cope. As touched upon earlier, it may also help to understand where they’re getting their information from and discuss how reliable their sources may be.

A calm and measured tone can also help provide the reassurance they need to open up and express how they’re really feeling about a range of topics.

For many teenagers, the biggest change recently will be the return of face-to-face learning. Reassure them it’s normal to have mixed feelings about going back to school, but also reaffirm the positives, such as getting to see their friends again and that it’s a good sign that things may be returning to normal.

Raising Children have prepared some helpful advice to help parents prepare their teenagers to return to school.

Separate fact and fiction

Misinformation is a major issue these days. It’s important to get your teen’s understanding of COVID-19 to get a sense of their level of understanding of the pandemic. Be sure to stick to the facts and clear up any confusion or hearsay that may cause them unnecessary worry. Point them to the best places to get news and explain the importance of sources like medical professionals and scientists. It might be worth making a list of trusted media outlets and the ones to avoid.

The Department of Health have also compiled some mythbusting facts to help clear any confusion people may have about COVID-19.

Keep everything in context

When discussing various aspects of the pandemic such as self-isolation and mask mandates, it should be done in context, emphasising the benefit they can bring to the community.

For instance, masks can help prevent the spread of COVID-19, protecting those more vulnerable like grandparents. And, that by lining up for a COVID-19 test, you may help prevent inadvertently spreading the virus and causing harm to others and their livelihoods. All in all, the more people adhere to the safety advice, the sooner we may go back to life as we knew it.

Let them know that events like birthday parties can be rescheduled for when the time is right. All this information will help your teen rationalise their thoughts if they ever feel overwhelmed.

Set rules, be flexible, get comfortable

The little things go a long way right now. Encouraging social distancing and mask wearing when meeting a large group of friends is a good start. Better yet, offer some alternative ways of socialising in a COVID-safe manner, such as outdoor sports, hikes and picnics.

It’s also worth establishing a set of ‘COVID-19 rules and boundaries’ that you agree upon together, but also allow for some flex. Be open to suggestions on how to make home time more comfortable. And with the return of face-to-face learning, it’s probably a good idea to encourage more out-of-home activities to help teenagers transition to life outside their ‘bubble’.

Stay active

Returning to school also means a return to sports and recreational activities. And with everything we know about the benefits of physical activity on our mental health, it’s important to encourage our teens back into the sports and recreational pursuits they enjoyed before the pandemic.

If your teen feels a little nervous about re-engaging, you can reassure them of the COVID-safe programs that have been recommended for sports to resume. For added peace of mind, you can ask their school what COVID-safe measures they’ve put in place to allow a safe return to school sports.

If your teen has been physically inactive for a while, remember not to push, there’s no rush. Just like stretching before a run, ease them into it. Why not plan activities you can do together to help them feel at home as they find their feet again?

Here are some helpful tips to help keep your teens injury free as they re-engage with sports.

Know where to go for support

Through Medibank’s Better Minds, you’ll find clinically-backed resources and advice to support your teenager’s mental health, such as understanding the signs and symptoms of anxiety and Caring for your child’s mental health. Members with eligible hospital cover can also access our 24/7 Mental Health Phone Support Service on 1800 644 325. As always, Beyond Blue is a trusted organisation and they provide helpful resources for teens as well.

And parents, don’t forget to keep your own mental health in check, too. We’ve also prepared some helpful advice so you can look after yourself when supporting someone.

Senior couple

Medibank Better Minds

Whether you’re unsure of what you’re feeling, looking out for a family member, or you simply need to hear another voice, we’re here to advise, guide and support you through your mental health journey.

Written by Editor Medibank

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