The Importance of Supporting Adolescents During COVID-19 Isolation

It’s been just over a year since the COVID-19 pandemic was declared a full-blown global health crisis, upending life as we know it. Since then, communities around the world have experienced profound loss, weathered restrictive lockdowns, and struggled to make ends meet.

Although it’s been a difficult time for everyone, it’s been uniquely challenging for adolescents. Just as they’re supposed to become more independent, explore their interests, and fortify their social connections, they’ve been mostly stuck at home in a tedious holding pattern.

From our team of mental health specialists at EXIS Recovery in West Los Angeles, here’s what you should know about adolescent mental health — and how you can support it — after a long year of pandemic isolation.

Isolation, loss of purpose, and grief 

For most adolescents, the pandemic has meant months of remote learning, an abrupt end to sports and after-school activities, loss of purpose, missed milestones, distanced friendships, and unrelenting feelings of frustration, boredom, and social isolation. 

By creating stress while simultaneously disrupting the very norms, activities, and connections that could help relieve it, the pandemic is taking a real toll on young people’s mental health and well-being. 

While it’s too early to understand the pandemic’s full effects on today’s youth, one thing is clear: Mental health experts — including our team at EXIS — have seen a major uptick in the number of adolescents with pandemic-related mental health problems. Reports suggest that the rise in mental health issues among young people is a global concern

Some kids verbalize their distress and ask for help, while others try to keep their anguish to themselves, particularly if they’re worried it will impact their family that’s already reeling from job loss and income instability or mourning the loss of a loved one.

It can be hard for adolescents to see the bigger picture, and kids who feel perpetually isolated are more likely to become overwhelmed by their reality. This helps explain why the rates of suicidal ideation, suicide attempts, and self-harm among young people were higher during certain months in 2020 than they were the year before the pandemic hit. 

Support, encouragement, and guidance

The light at the end of the tunnel may finally be drawing near, but it’s arguably more important than ever to recognize how your continued support, encouragement, and guidance can boost your teen’s mental health and protect their well-being as they await the return to normalcy.

Until it’s possible for your teen to resume the activities and social interactions they’ve been so acutely missing, you can help them by doing the following:

Create a structured routine

The pandemic has significantly increased the amount of free time kids have these days, and a lack of structure only serves to amplify the problem. To make your teen’s stay-at-home days more purposeful, create a new routine that helps them make the most of their time.

Their daily schedule might include time to get outdoors, exercise, stretch, or meditate, as well as time to read and connect socially, whether it’s in-person and socially distanced or over video chat. 

Promote constructive screen time

Left to their own devices, the average adolescent would spend their down time gaming online with friends, aimlessly scrolling through social media, or watching random videos on YouTube.

More than ever, devices like phones, tablets, and computers are a lifeline for lonely teens who want to stay connected to their friends. While this can make it challenging to limit screen time, you can still encourage your teen to use some of their time online constructively.

Whether your teen is interested in photography, songwriting, physical fitness, learning how to identify local trees, or perfecting new dance moves, time online spent exploring their interests is time well spent — especially if one or two of their friends share that interest. 

Keep a consistent schedule

A consistent schedule that prioritizes adequate sleep, regular exercise, and healthy meals can go a long way in helping your teen feel more positive and energized in times of stress and imbalance.

Given that the loss of normal routines can be a major source of stress for everyone, it’s helpful to keep the pieces you still control — your family’s daily schedule of eating, moving, and sleeping — as reliable and enjoyable as possible. 

Check in often, and listen when you do

Encourage your adolescent to express their anxieties, fears, and grief by giving them your undivided, judgement-free attention. Just as giving your teen a safe space to share their feelings can help them feel heard, acknowledging their stress can help them feel validated.

Listen to your teen, express confidence in their ability to rebound, and reassure them that, no matter how isolated they may feel at times, you’re all in this together

And if your teen is really struggling, don’t hesitate to reach out to our team at EXIS Recovery. Call 424-244-3513 to contact our West Los Angeles office today, or use the online booking tool to schedule a visit with one of our experienced mental health experts any time.

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