Mental Health During a Pandemic: Tips for Teens and Parents

By Heidi FitzGerald, M.Sc., L. Psych.
Clinical Coordinator, Integrated Service Delivery Western Charlotte Child and Youth Team

During the early stages of COVID-19, people had many questions focused on fear and were worried about becoming ill or a loved one contracting the virus. More recently concerns include how COVID-19 will impact our psychological well-being, educational outcomes and employment opportunities.

It’s important to remember that as people, we are resilient. Throughout history people have experienced events that forever shaped them. New inventions, technology developments, health pandemics, war and natural disasters have impacted many generations and through the trying times, people have shown how their resiliency can have a positive impact.

One of the biggest challenges with COVID-19 is uncertainty. Day to day, week to week, it continues to unfold – leaving many unanswered questions – but there is support.

And although the pandemic has caused children and adults to experience loss, we are very fortunate in New Brunswick, and our losses relate primarily to time with friends or family, lost opportunity to play organized sports or attend social activities and birthday and holiday celebrations that look very different.

Here are some ways you can support your children and teens during this pandemic:

  1. Waiting for things to become normal is no longer an option. Children and teens need physical activity and lots of it. Being active reduces stress in the body and produces natural body chemicals that strengthen our immune system. Find ways to get outside for a walk, play catch or road hockey in your yard, you can even practice yoga or do jumping jacks in the bedroom when no other opportunities are available. There are plenty of activities you can do at home without the need for materials. Check out this resource for children or click here for helpful resources for teens.
  2. Children are like mirrors, they reflect what they see in their parents. If parents remain calm – children reflect calmness. If parents panic – children panic. Do your best to manage your anxiety by exercising, taking time to rest, learning and practicing healthy coping skills, and eating healthy foods. When talking with your children balance honesty with hope.
  • Don’t lie to your children by saying things like: “Nothing bad will happen and everything will be back to normal before we know it.”
  • Honestly inform your children: “This is a new situation and we really don’t know how long it will take before we have a vaccine and are less likely to get sick.”
  • Provide hope with informed statements such as: “We know that it’s really helpful to wear a mask, stay physically distant from others, do not touch your face, and wash your hands often.”
  1. Provide opportunities for your children and teens to talk about their concerns and provide answers to their questions to the best of your ability. Keep a predictable structure in place. School time, meal time, and free time boundaries help children and teens feel secure.
  2. Engage your children in discussions about managing uncertainty. Learning to cope when the answers are not yet available to us is a powerful life skill. Click here to get some tips on ensuring children’s and teens’ mental health during COVID-19. Click here to access some tips for parents and guardians.
  3. Remember: children are resilient. They will bounce back from the psychological impacts of this pandemic and carry with them strengths they have gained during this challenging time.

If your child or teen is struggling with significant worry, sadness, or grief and you want to explore how best to help,
reach out to your local Child and Youth Integrated Service Delivery team: