Pandemic Report Part 3: How can caregivers help struggling teens bounce back?

As our pandemic report uncovered, caregiver concerns rose disproportionately for teenagers over the pandemic—and problems persist.

In the third and final part of our 3-part blog series, we’ll examine the conclusions of our Pandemic Report: Inside Teens’ Lingering Mental Health Struggles and How Parents Can Help. How can parents and caregivers help struggling teens bounce back from the pandemic?

Psychologist and developmental specialist Dr. Jill Arnold Goldberg and other child experts offer five practical support strategies for parents and caregivers. Many of these can be applied other parenting situations.

  1. Practice good self-care

Children see their parents’ and caregivers’ healthy behavior. Taking breaks from work, exercising or practicing mindfulness can influence a child to develop these positive habits as well.

  1. Be consistent

Kids see unhealthy behavior as well, and teens have no problem calling out their caregivers as hypocrites. For example, if you want your teen to get off their phone, it’s easier if you put yours down as well.

  1. Spend quiet time with your teen

When kids struggle, caregivers are often tempted to pepper them with questions. Caregivers are concerned and want to understand what’s going on. But often, caregivers can learn more about teens simply by spending some quiet time together.

  1. Be the squeaky wheel

It can be incredibly difficult to find mental health resources for your child—especially these days. Caregivers stuck on one or several waitlists can give clinicians gentle reminder calls. This will keep your child’s needs top of mind.

  1. Advocate for more wellness curricula in schools

As Dr. Goldberg Arnold say, “If 25 percent of the population is anxious, there aren’t enough therapists to go around.” The pandemic demonstrated the critical role schools can play in mental health maintenance.

School isn’t just a place for teens to learn and socialize with friends. It’s a place where students can develop healthy behaviors and a place where teachers can informally screen for emerging mental health issues. Schools can take an even more active role in preventative mental health by including wellness in the curriculum.

A Silver Lining

Though the pandemic has caused many challenges and much stress, Dr. Goldberg Arnold does see a silver lining for children.

One of the top challenges she helps children overcome is rigid thinking. To her surprise, she’s discovered the pandemic has helped children become more flexible and more resilient.

This makes sense. The pandemic taught children that there are some things their parents can’t change or fix. With no other choice available, kids adapted. Teen research conducted by the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health uncovered similar results.

Both Dr Goldberg Arnold and the Torchlight team believe these children have the potential to carry that flexibility into adulthood. The result could be a more resilient generation—and one that passes those same lessons onto their children.

Want to learn more about teens and the pandemic? Download Pandemic Report: Inside Teens’ Lingering Mental Health Struggles and How Parents Can Help here.