Teenage years can be tough, especially when living through them during a pandemic. Lots of changes in recent months to help stop the spread of COVID, but some of those changes have created isolation and anxiety in our youth.
“Here we are back to school and for many students it’s very welcome. They’re excited to get back to in person learning. But for others, this has been a bit of a challenge,” says Dr. Amy Khan, Executive Medical Director for Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Utah.
Many teens got used to being at home behind a computer screen over the past year and could be nervous about face-to-face interactions resuming.
“Last year teens experienced anxiety, depression, and we did see the proportion of behavioral health visits from adolescent children went up 31 percent compared to 2019,” says Kahn.
Khan says the measures many of us took to help stop the spread of COVID-19 also created isolation and impacted social skill development and learning setbacks, as well.
She says, “It’s very important for our parents to take time and check in with your teenager. A couple key steps are really developing some active listening habits, if you will. Kind of listening for cues or probing about some concerns and reassure your kids show some confidence to go back to school.”
Khan says it’s important to empower teens by giving them the option of wearing a mask, getting the vaccine when eligible, along with a flu shot to help them stay health throughout the school year.
A well-balanced diet, getting exercise and 9-10 hours of sleep can also help your teen thrive. And don’t be afraid to check on your child’s mental health.
“When needed, check it out with your pediatrician or your family physician and connect with the behavioral health providers to you,” says Khan.
She also suggests that teens tune up on their social skills by taking time to connect with adults beyond their parents – like teachers, coaches, and more.
“Some of this is just how do we re-emerge and be appropriate and social and feel like we’re part of something,” says Khan.