Health Check

How to guide teenagers through COVID-19

Older children may understand the impact of COVID-19 but not be equipped to handle self-isolation and anxiety.

Written by Editor Medibank
Teenage boy relaxing in his bedroom.

Teenagers know everything.

As a parent you will be well versed in the world according to your teenager. With access to smartphones and the internet, they’ll be up to date on the global impact of COVID-19. You may already be getting daily COVID-19 briefings from your teens.

But with so much information available, are they prepared to process what’s going on right now?

The impact of COVID-19, as the teens say, is a lot. There are interruptions to regular activities and social occasions, and we’re being told to stay at home as much as possible. Being a teenager is already overwhelming without a global pandemic!

Mental health is vital for teenagers during this challenging time. It’s important to recognise if your teenager isn’t coping well and where they can get help. Headspace offers resources for teens, and remember to keep your own mental health in mind too. Be wary of your own mindset and arrange a time to discuss COVID-19 with your teenager when you’re calm and can help them work through their feelings.

There are ways you can provide support, listen to their concerns and help them keep a level head. It’s also an opportunity to teach them about where they get their information from and the importance of trustworthy news sources.

Separate fact and fiction

Teenagers are more connected than ever. The major problem with the internet and social media is that misinformation spreads quickly. Even second-hand news from a friend that may not be true can be easily believed. Plan a time to chat about what’s happening with COVID-19 to get a sense of your teen’s level of understanding of the situation. 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.

Keep everything in context

The disruption caused by COVID-19 limits the spread of the virus. Shutdowns and social distancing are part of the solution to a much bigger problem but they’re not permanent. Even though things may feel uncertain at times it’s good to keep the big picture in mind. Talk with your teen about the timeline of the disruptions and how Australia is tracking compared with other countries. Discuss how the changes are protecting more vulnerable people from getting the virus and the difference in risk for the older population and younger population. 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 get overwhelmed.

Set rules, be flexible, get comfortable

The little things go a long way right now. Discuss with your teen the recommendations from health organisations about good hand hygiene and social distancing. Make sure they understand why they can’t hang out in a big group with their friends and suggest more ways to connect online; for example, there are apps where you can watch TV together. It’s worth establishing a set of ‘COVID-19 rules’ that you agree upon together, but just because there are new rules doesn’t mean there can’t be a few privileges, too. Be open to suggestions about how to make this time more comfortable at home while staying as normal as possible. Ensure school studies continue uninterrupted but is it time to subscribe to a new streaming service? Can the amount of screentime be extended per day? Why not dare dad to grow a moustache? Get creative.

Stay active

All the health advice around COVID-19 is designed to keep as many people as healthy as possible. Yes, we’re being told to stay at home a lot but that doesn’t mean your family stops being active. With social distancing rules in mind, plan a regular walk or run to get fresh air. If sports have been postponed, run a training session in your backyard. Plan activities you can do together to stay active but be realistic about what’s possible at home. It all adds up to make things feel normal during a tricky time.

Written by Editor Medibank

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