Having teenagers at home may not be as tedious as those with younger children, but the outbreak also impacts the wellbeing of adolescents, explained Caroline Miller of Child Mind Institute, an independent non-profit dedicated to transforming the lives of children with learning and mental health disorders. Younger kids may be elated with you doting on them the whole day, but for teens, it’s a different story.
The Impacts of the COVID-19 Outbreak On US Teens
A survey by global non-profit Junior Achievement and Citizens Bank, a bank that offers personal and business banking and more, found that 57% of 1,000 US teens aged 13 to 18 who were not currently enrolled in college were concerned about how COVID-19 will affect their life after high school, cited Michelle Fox of CNBC, a business and financial news website.
56% said it has not affected their plans to pay for college, 32% answered “yes, somewhat,” and 12% answered “yes, a lot.” The survey was conducted by Wakefield Research from April 8 and April 14, 2020. Of the high school juniors and seniors who were surveyed, 27% stated that their plans after graduation have changed while 44% said the outbreak affected their plans to pay for college. 58% also said they were more likely to take a student loan to pay for higher education.
Of the respondents who said their plans after graduation have changed, 35% stated it would alter their living situation such as living at home instead of a dorm. Further, 30% said they delayed their college start date. 27% chose to work to earn money and 18% changed the career path they wish to pursue.13% decided to change the school they planned to attend while 9% of respondents still decided to attend college. However, 8% chose not to attend college and participate in online college classes only.
When asked which aspects of COVID-19 they were most concerned about, 60% answered “a family member other than a parent or guardian getting sick,” while 59% said they were concerned about the possibility of a parent or guardian getting sick. 57% stated how the outbreak will affect their plans for the future, 39% were concerned about the possibility of getting themselves sick, and 36% were worried about their parent or guardian having enough money to pay bills. Only 10% of US teens said “I’m not concerned about COVID-19.”
The report also found that 42% of teens have parents or caretakers currently working from home due to the pandemic, while 28% said their parents or caretakers are working fewer hours. 13% answered that their parent or caretaker has lost a job. Job loss also affected teens, with 25% saying they have lost odd jobs such as snow removal and lawn mowing. 21% have lost pet sitting and babysitting jobs and 18% have been unemployed at an outside employer.
Helping Your Teen Deal With the Realities of the Pandemic
1. Validate Their Disappointment and Emotions
Your teen would lose the opportunity to attend high school sports seasons, proms, graduation, theater productions, and more. Everyone is missing out on leisurely or academic activities, so let your teen share their feelings with you. Acknowledge the stress of how the pandemic will affect their futures. Don’t judge them! Instead, trust your child’s ability and confidence to bounce back after the crisis.
Moreover, you should also understand the frustration of not hanging out with their peers during the pandemic. If your teen is frustrated about staying indoors with parents and siblings, it is recommended to have a direct conversation with them, said Rachel Busman, PsD, a clinical psychologist at the Child Mind Institute.
Again, listen, acknowledge, and validate their feelings. Then, tell them straightforwardly how you can work together with your teen to make the situation more bearable. For example, you can implement more flexible rules about spending time on social media to compensate for the time lost due to school closures. This way, your teen will still have the chance to socialize with their friends, albeit virtually and safely.
2. Offer Alternative Options for Celebrating Milestones
Feel free to offer alternatives but you have to remember that it may be different from your expectations, said Jennifer Folsom of NBC News Know Your Value, a website catered to helping women grow their career, develop healthy habits, and more.
In Folsom’s house, her twin children— both of whom are teenagers—will hold a virtual party on Zoom to commemorate their 18th birthday. Their friends and families all over the US can also join the virtual party. Folsom’s family will be sending an invite to about 100 people on said platform. Meanwhile, a younger neighbor’s birthday was celebrated with a parade of honking cars, which displayed “Happy Birthday” signs.
3. Talk About Finances
Be open to discussing the financial impacts of the outbreak with your teen, suggested Jack E. Kosakowski, president and CEO of Junior Achievement USA and CNBC’s contributing writer. Communicate these impacts in terms that are reassuring and easy to understand.
If you have a high schooler who plans to go to college, talk about how their finances will change after the pandemic. This may include slashing costs, attending online schools initially, enrolling in a community college, and delaying their studies for a semester.
4. Encourage Healthy Habits
Healthy habits are important for teens who may be struggling with anxiety and depression. Jill Emanuele, PhD, a clinical psychologist at the Child Mind Institute reminded, “Make sure you’re eating properly and sleeping and being social and engaging in pleasant activities.”
Be sure your teen gets adequate sleep, eats healthy food, and exercises. Keep their sleep schedule and waking times consistent to help them maintain a positive mood, as well as their ability to do their school requirements.
Dr. Emanuele added that having family members around can be overwhelming for your teen or potentially ignite conflict or tension. She commented, “Families will need to diffuse tensions in the home with parents and siblings, because everyone is going to be stressed out more.” It will be different for each family, but you might want to think about when to give your teen more free time while maintaining structure.
Teens are barraged with a range of emotions during these trying times. Parents should validate and listen to their concerns. Parents should also help them offer solutions to handle the financial and social impacts of the pandemic.