Social distancing — and schooling during social distancing — isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. While this is a difficult and strenuous time for many, we’ve heard a few assumptions regarding teens and mental health. To give adults a glimpse of what we’re going through, we put together a public service announcement against the backdrop of Zoom call. We want to address the notions that because we’re working from home, or that we’re young, we have it easy.
From technical difficulties to having an unprecedented pandemic color our thoughts and actions, learning through a screen for hours and staying confined to our homes can be mentally taxing. According to PsyCom, “academic stress, social stress, family discord, world events, traumatic events, and significant life changes” are six common triggers that lead to teen stress. At this current time, we’re experiencing most, if not all, of these, and stress can have a negative impact on mental and physical health.
Over time, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, stress can “contribute to serious health problems, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and other illnesses, including mental disorders such as depression or anxiety.”
Although the school year is over, we are still facing isolation at home, while all summer programs, school, and most socializing takes place on video conferencing. Not to mention the ongoing stress of a pandemic and recent violence. Stress still rings loudly.
Tips from Teens to Show You Understand
With space and opportunity to acknowledge the problem, here are actionable tips for adults to positively connect with teens and create positive experiences this summer.
A regular time for family
In this time of general connection-deficiency, where the ability to truly connect is decreasing by the day, some responsibility falls upon families to make up for lack of outside contact. Sharing a space doesn’t necessarily inform support or community (especially when children grow beyond the age of necessary tending), but it definitely can and (especially in this case) should.
Some ways that parents could foster familial connection…could include taking a walk/hike together, cooking together, reading together, or building something as a family. With structure and fluid outside communication all but lost to the pandemic, having a regular time for family connection could certainly aid in making young people feel less alone.
– Dinah Rogers, 15, Decatur High School
Ask us what we’re up to and give us a break
In order for parents to ‘recognize our struggle,’ they have to ask us questions. Not only should y’all ask us questions, but you should also check in to see what we’ve been up to and realize our signs of stress or fatigue. I would like to hear parents ask more often: ‘How’s your day?’ or ‘What’s been on your mind lately?’ I would also like to see parents not over use their kids during this time. We understand we’re in the house all day, but that shouldn’t mean we have to clean all day everyday. Everyone deserves a break. Give it to us.
– Roderick Thomas, Jr., 16, Homeschooled
Realizing that we are all going through a very difficult time in our lives, parents should dig deep into a time that was difficult for them and try to connect with our situation, and give support where teens need It. It is crucial to be an ally, and aid teens in an empathetic way to show us that our feelings are valued. Adults and the youth must work together to help one another in this difficult time.
– India Rice, 16, Westlake High
Hear us out — fully
Make sure that you listen to your teens in order to understand, not to respond. If they are trying to explain how they feel to you, try not to interrupt them while speaking and wait until they finish. This will help them express their feelings and let them know that you care about what they have to say.
– Christina Norris, 19, Georgia State University
Suggest outside time
This new life without school and work structure is difficult for everyone, no matter their ability to regulate themselves and their time. Sometimes, the best thing a parent can do is to remind their kid to get some fresh air. A bit of time outside may do more good than you think.
– Dinah Rogers, 15, Decatur High School
Sometimes, all teens need is for parents to acknowledge and understand what they are going through and having to handle in times of isolation and overwhelming situations, such as what we are living through now.
– Emory, 17, Walton High School
Featured in the video: Cayla Lamar, India Rice, Christina Norris, Isabella Cavienss, Dinah Rogers, Emory Paul, Roderick Thomas Jr.
Special thanks to our producer for this video, Darriea Clark, VOX ATL alumna and Special Projects Editor.
Music credit: Bensounds.com
VOX ATL’s mental health coverage and community workshops are funded by the Georgia Department of Behavior Health and Developmental Disabilities. (DBHDD). Views expressed in this material are the work of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the GA DBHDD.
If you or someone you know needs help, please call or text one of these resources!
Georgia Crisis & Access Line (GCAL) – 1-800-715-4225, available 24/7
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 1-800-273-TALK (8255) also offers 24/7 connection with a trained counselor at a local crisis center, or Text “START” to 741-741
The Trevor Project – suicide prevention hotline for LGTBQ youth ages 13-24, Text “Trevor” to 202-304-1200 Thurs.-Fri. (4-8 p.m.) or call (866) 488-7386 – 24/7