How the pandemic has impacted mental health for teens

The pandemic has taken a toll on many people’s mental health, especially teenagers.
The pandemic has taken a toll on many people’s mental health, especially teenagers. (Copyright 2021 by Cleveland Clinic News Service. All rights reserved.)

The pandemic has taken a toll on many people’s mental health, especially teenagers. They went from seeing their friends every day at school to having to learn from home.

“Kids are flexible in general, but this has gone on for so long and it’s getting very tiring. And, you know, teens are very much in the moment. They’re not used to things waiting, except for things like proms and graduation, and even those still seem somewhat uncertain,” said Vanessa Jensen, Psy.D., Cleveland Clinic Children’s.

She said the change in lifestyle has left some teens feeling anxious and depressed.

So how can parents tell if their child is struggling right now?

She said there are a couple of red flags to watch out for, like a big drop in grades or isolating themselves and not talking with friends. Eating and sleeping habits might change too. They may also get headaches and make vague complaints about not feeling well.

Jensen said there are ways to help them cope. For example, if they miss playing sports, you can watch videos from their old games. You could also encourage them to do a good deed for someone they know.

“If your teen is willing, say ‘Hey why don’t you give Mrs. so-and-so a call or let’s bake some brownies for Mr. so-and-so down the street and leave them on the doorstep.’ Just the sense of doing something for somebody else can help get our brains off of how we feel and give us a sense of doing something purposeful,” said Jensen.

As for parents, she said, try not to be too hard on yourselves. Many people are having a hard time right now, and it’s OK to let your kids know that. If you’re feeling completely overwhelmed, you can always reach out to a medical professional for advice.