5 tips for helping your adolescent manage their mood during COVID-19

April 15, 2020

Photo: Getty Images

Are you a caregiver to an adolescent experiencing a range of moods in the midst of COVID-19? If so, you are not alone.

Adolescence is a time of physical, emotional and hormonal changes. Adolescents seek independence and desire to spend more time with peers. Due to COVID-19, your adolescent may feel sad, scared, disappointed or worried. In fact, sudden changes to daily routines and limited connection with peers may contribute to rapid and intense mood shifts. Strategies for how to help adolescents manage their mood in the midst of the current pandemic may be particularly helpful.

While there is no recipe for an adolescent to achieve the “perfect mood,” outlined below are 5 tips that may help.

  1. Validate their disappointments and help them find alternative solutions. Listen to what your adolescent is feeling. While they may focus more on the loss of their social life and disappointments about parties or team sports, it is important to validate these feelings. For example, if you are a parent who is strictly sticking to the social distancing guidelines, your adolescent may already be frustrated with you, and may be reporting that some parents are still allowing their child to hang out as usual. In this situation it will be important to validate your adolescent by stating, “I know it has to be frustrating to not see your friends, however this does not align with local safety guidelines so I am wondering if there are other ways you can safely connect with friends at this time?” Be open to their suggestions and flexible where you can be. For example, loosening rules about time spent on social media may help make up for the time they are losing socializing at school.
     
  2. Help your adolescent get adequate sleep, eat healthy meals and exercise regularly. While your teen may think it is fun to stay up all night because they no longer have to attend school, remind them that they still have academic expectations they must accomplish. Remind them that they make their body’s job easier by adequately preparing it through the proper amount rest, eating a healthy diet and exercising.
     
  3. Be the model. Although it may appear that your adolescent “tunes you out,” they actually will look to their adult models to gauge how they should feel and behave. The best approach for caregivers is to model calmness, patience and flexibility. This will help convey to your teen that it is possible to modify routines and maintain a healthy mood. If you are a parent working from home, you may want to show your teen how you build in breaks for social time, exercising and entertainment. For example, they may do a session of work then reward themselves with something relaxing. Model for them that although things have changed, we can all adapt to the changes.
     
  4. Ask your adolescent for their help. Caregivers can ask, “Can you show me what schedule you think is best for you?” Since adolescents are often seeking opportunities for independence, try not to micromanage their time, but be clear about expectations. It may be helpful to clearly write out expectations and post them in a location they will see daily. Further, you can ask a persistently moody adolescent how they would like to balance their own right to be upset with the reasonable expectation that they not make life in close quarters more difficult for the rest of the family. It is important to accept where they are but ask for their help in how to move forward.
     
  5. Express confidence in your adolescent’s abilities and praise them when you see them doing well.  Express confidence in your adolescent’s ability to deal with tough stuff. Remind them that you have been through challenging times before, and though everyone was distressed, everyone worked together and got through it. Reliving these narratives helps youth build resilience and hope. Praise them when you see them execute a creative idea for managing stress or practicing good hygiene. Thank them for partnering with you to help the household and reinforce that they are not only taking care of themselves and their family, but also their larger community by following local safety guidelines.  

Post by:

Danielle R. Busby, PhD

Dr. Busby is an Assistant Professor at Baylor College of Medicine/Texas Children’s Hospital. In this role, she primarily serves youth and families through the Trauma and Grief Clinic and is in the early stages of developing a clinic specific to youth depression and suicide prevention. She has...

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