Adolescents have been affected by the pandemic in a unique way.

On top of trying to explore their sense of self (a very confusing and unsettling phase for the majority), they continue to miss out on various aspects of their emerging adulthood that take place in person. Missing out on significant events, such as birthdays and graduations, serves as a perfect storm of a particularly disappointing and disheartening time for teens.

Below are some things that the teens in your lives may have been struggling with:

  • Sustaining/making new friendships
  • Dating
  • Preoccupation with the health of family
  • Family financial strain
  • Lost traditions
  • College applications
  • Navigating graduation and starting at new schools
  • Academic hurdles
  • Loss of access to sports and extracurriculars

The COVID-19 pandemic keeps raining on our parades. Over the past year, students have been struggling with piles of schoolwork along with palpable anxiety about the future. However, as summer is approaching and restrictions are being lifted, this is the time to grow and prepare for the next steps in life. If you are concerned about a teen in your life, here are some ways to help them cope.

Give them space to process their grief…

Many teenagers have struggled during the pandemic with the loss of routines, milestones, friendships, or death of loved ones. The pandemic made it hard for them to have their basic developmental needs met, so it’s important to be patient with them and allow space for grief. As adults/caregivers, our first instinct might be to pull our teenagers away from dwelling on the pain that the pandemic has brought on, but we should remember that by allowing grief to run its course, it can help them move forward. Processing grief can look different for every teen. For some, they may seek out the company of their friends, and others, resolve their grief through creative outlets such as poetry, journaling or music.

Ask them how they are doing…

Check-in on the teens in your life and ask them how you could support them through this time. This academic year was known to be the hardest yet. They have been under a lot of pressure, stress and panic around getting assignments finished in spaces that are not the classrooms they are accustomed to. Given shared spaces at home, they might have struggled with procrastination and attention issues as well as feelings of loneliness. Listen without judgment and validate their experiences. Work on meeting them where they are at without downplaying or belittling their concerns. If they are feeling bad about missing a birthday party, validate that experience for them no matter how small it may seem in the grand scheme of things.

Lead by Example…

Seeing the adults in their life feel helpless can have a huge and lasting impact on teenagers. This can be a great opportunity to teach and model to your teens on how to overcome obstacles coming our way while building resilience. This includes making sure that you, as the adult, have your own support system and self-care to be able to model. One important aspect to model is self-compassion and ways to creatively tackle conflict. This can include how you speak to and treat yourself during stressful times and how to ask for support.

To all the teens out there…

This period of time may have felt like it was going to last forever, but as things begin to open up, allow yourselves to explore and develop a sense of direction in life. As schools plan to reopen this fall, take the summer to ease yourself back into your social circles. Take this time to catch a break and focus on the things that bring you joy!

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