Senior Manager of Youth &Young Adult Initiatives at NAMI
It has been more than six months since COVID-19 completely changed the world. Recent surveys have shown that young people are being hit hard. Young people’s lives are dramatically different with virtual classes, social distancing, and the stress of getting sick or losing a loved one to the virus.
Many students have moved from sitting in a classroom to sitting at home alone for hours. They sit in front of a laptop, having to keep themselves on task, sometimes without adults at home to offer support and help them focus. Months out of the classroom and in some form of social isolation has kept students from interacting with friends and peers.
It’s important that we address how these changes and stressors are affecting the mental health of students. Now more than ever, we must offer support and guidance to young people.
Be there to listen
Let the teens in your life know that you’re there with an open mind for them to share anything they might be feeling without judgement. Only give advice if they ask you for it — sometimes, they may just want someone to listen. Just remember that you don’t have to be their parent or guardian to support their mental health. Teachers, coaches, or extended family members can offer invaluable support as well.
Learn the warning signs
If you’re noticing changes in a young person’s behavior, talk to them about it. You might notice a drastic change in their mood, behavior, personality, or sleep habits. If you feel they may be experiencing a mental health condition, it is essential to help them get the care they need.
There are several ways to improve the virtual classroom experience for your child. You can:
- Work with them to plan, write, and display a schedule so you’re both on the same page about what each day will look like.
- Create a designated space for schoolwork, which helps with concentration and productivity.
- Coordinate a virtual study group with peers so they connect over video to work together on assignments and share skills.
In such a challenging world, we need to make sure that teens understand they’re not alone. We’re all experiencing the challenges of COVID-19, and when we open up about it and let young people know they aren’t the only ones struggling, it can help them find the strength to speak up and ask for help when they need it.