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Ask the Counsellors: Should I be worried about my teen during the pandemic?

Dear Aspire Too,

I’m a single parent of three kids ages 10, 16 and 19 years old. I have recently taken on more shifts as I
am fearful of losing my job through the pandemic. I work outside of the home so I feel like trying
to balance work and my personal/home life have been challenging to say the least. I feel so
anxious, worried and exhausted. I have constant guilt that I rely on my 16 year old to keep things
organized at home. My 19 year old son lives away from home, we don’t chat as much as I would
like. I feel like a horrible parent. I’m mostly concerned about my 16 year old as she keeps pretty
isolated in her room, she’s angry and just not herself. We used to be pretty close but I feel this
has changed. Is this just normal teenage behavior or should I be worried?

-Going COVID Crazy

 

Dear Going COVID Crazy,

First of all, you are not a horrible parent! Like many parents you are in survival mode through
this difficult and uncertain time of pandemic. Parenting has its own challenges pre-pandemic
and now with restrictions, unexpected financial strains, personal relationship breakdowns,
complex virtual learning challenges, isolation and feelings of loneliness are reasons as to why
many parents feel like they are going ”COVID crazy.“ It is pretty normal to feel worried and
anxious when dealing with compounded stress. It is important as a parent to be mindful and
deal appropriately with your own feelings and behaviors as it greatly affects your children. They
know when you are stressed or worried and they feed off your energy which is why it is
important that you check in regularly, especially during stressful times.

Although it can be normal for teens to be angry at times and spend much time alone in their own
space, it sounds as though there may be some changes in your daughter’s behaviors which are
worth checking into. Behavioural changes in teens and young adults to be aware of include:
change in mood (irritable, flat affect, angry, sad, anxious), physical symptoms (headaches,
stomach pain), sleeping too much or too little, difficulty in concentration, tendency to isolate
more, loss of interest of things they once enjoyed, change in marks in school, engaging in drugs
or alcohol, defiance in rules and restriction, depression and suicidal talk.

Adolescence is a time in life that is focused on building independence, autonomy and social
interactions which are all part of healthy development. The stress of change in routine, not
seeing friends, the challenges of virtual learning, missing out on significant events, dating, social
or extracurricular activities and possibly more responsibility at home can all contribute to an
increase in mental health struggle and interfere with healthy development.

Ways to help your teen/young adult to cope through the pandemic:

● Prioritize your own self-care on a daily basis. If you have a spouse or partner also
prioritize time spent together & work as a team. In order to empower your children to
gain healthy coping skills you need to model this behavior. In a time you may feel you
have no control, remind yourself that you have choice as to how you take care of
yourself
● Check in regularly with your children whether they are at home or living away. Ask how
the changes are affecting them. Engage with empathy & support as they are dealing with
loss in many ways. Acknowledge & validate their worries or concerns
● Encourage healthy eating, physical activity & healthy sleep patterns
● Keep routine & boundaries
● Let them have a choice in family activity/ time spent together. Teens want to have input
& allows them to be creative
● Allow them to connect with family and friends virtually
● Teach & practice mindfulness individually & as a family
● Encourage them to accept things that are outside of their control & focus on what can be
controlled
● Suggest the idea of seeking a counsellor for support. Let them know specifically why you
are concerned. If they are not wanting to talk to someone, you may want to seek support
for yourself to discuss ideas as to how to get your teen to agree to see a counsellor or
strategies to support your teen & family

As a parent you know your child best and what is out of character for them. If you are at all
concerned, it is very important to take what your kids have to say seriously and provide the
support they need as it affects everyone differently. If you or your child are in need of
professional support during this stressful time please do not hesitate to seek assistance and
book an appointment with us.

Please know that you are not alone in this! Reach out to your support systems. We are in this
together!

Kim Steiger de Moissac BSW, RSW
Registered Social Worker/ Clinical Counsellor
kim@aspiretoo.ca