Stay-at-home orders and the impacts on teen mental health

Posted at 6:47 AM, Apr 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-15 08:47:48-04

COLORADO SPRINGS — Teens are cooped up at home instead of making memories, while the COVID-19 pandemic rages on. This can have an impact, not only on your child's development, but also their mental health.

Clinical Child Psychologist Jessica Hawks says socializing is a part of the "teen experience."

"It really is difficult for them that they can't see their friends from school and that they can only connect with them virtually," Hawks explained.

Remember your prom date? What dress you wore to homecoming? Your senior trip? This year, for teens coming of age, a stroll down memory lane might be painful.

"All of those events are sort of questions in the air right now," said Carolyn Gery, an instructor at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. "When there is so much uncertainty it makes us all feel unsafe."

Teens are also at that age where they are asserting the independence from their parents. If you're under quarantine, that can be hard to do under mom and dad's roof.

"Your parents are in charge of essentially being your educator, so their going to be giving you more directive and they are also in charge of your entire day," Hawks said. "That can feel really frustrating for teens who are used to having more independence."

You're probably thinking teens have Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat to keep in touch with friends. That maybe true, but there's nothing like the real thing.

"When you look in someone's eyes you can tell if they are following you, do they understand, and are they happy or sad," Gery explained.

Both experts gave tips on what parents can do to help. Gery says it's important to set a structured schedule for your child. School provided them with that, and now parents must step in. Hawks says be sure to monitor how much information your child is consuming regarding the coronavirus.

"Really be thoughtful about the amount of exposure your teens are getting to the different news information that is out there, whether it's on Facebook, television, or even adult conversations," Hawks said.

The next thing parents can do is recognize the signs of anxiety or depression in your teen. If their mood, sleeping or eating habits change, something's up.

Another resource is the Pikes Peak Suicide Prevention Partnership. They agency has put together a board of teens to address mental health topics. They're not focused on suicide, but instead highlighting the challenges teens face because of COVID-19.

Click here, for more information.