5 things teens and young adults can do to stay strong during the pandemic

Teens and young adults who’ve been pulled out of school and separated from friends are being hit especially hard by the pandemic. Experts concerned about their mental health have advice for staying strong.

“It’s OK not to be OK, there are ways, and things we can do, to take care of our own mental health and to reach out for help if we need it,” John MacPhee, of the JED Foundation, said speaking for the Ad Council’s “Alone Together” Campaign.

The Alone Together advice for coping with coronavirus anxiety includes:

  • Stay calm
  • Remain connected to friends and family members
  • Moderate your news intake
  • Get good sleep
  • Exercise and stay active
  • Get outside

“All these things that we know can help calm us and protect our mental health,” MacPhee noted.

Parents can help teens and young adults cope better with pandemic-related anxiety.

More than talking — especially about COVID-19 — college students say the No.1 way parents can support them is simply spending time with them, according to a survey by the non-profit, Active Minds.

“Spend time with them — time as a family not focused on coronavirus,” MacPhee advised. “Spending time having fun, bringing some joy into the house.”

MacPhee said teens and young adults will, in part, process what’s happening now by watching their parents and older adults.

“So, it’s important that we as older adults model that self-care, that we’re taking care of ourselves, that we are not projecting too much fear and anxiety,” he said.

How do you talk with kids you think might not be coping well?

“Ask them if they’re okay. If you can, try to identify a specific example about why you’re asking the question,” MacPhee advised.

Examples:

  • You seem to be spending a lot of time alone.
  • It doesn’t seem you’re connecting with friends as much.

“Ask if they’re OK and then listen. Give the space to listen,” he said. “And know that if they say they’re fine and don’t want to talk at that moment, that you have opened the door and you’ve let them know it’s OK to talk. And then come back to the conversation.”

For more tips on how to start conversations with people you’re concerned about, MacPhee recommends resources available through the “Seize The Awkward” campaign which is another effort by the Ad Council and JED Foundation to help people who may be struggling with mental health.

MacPhee said parents with teens and young adults at home might want to print out Crisis Text Line information and put it on the refrigerator or family message board.

For free confidential crisis counseling, text SHARE to 741741.


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