By Clinton Mosley, Bullis Upper School Counselor
The pandemic has been hard on all of us, and many adults and children have experienced mental health struggles as a result of quarantine and social distancing requirements. In fact, research shows that nearly half of all teens have experienced new or worsened mental health conditions since the start of the pandemic.
As we begin to experience a return to normalcy, many parents feel that their teen will instantly feel better. Unfortunately, that may not be true for everyone. As a parent, you are the first line of defense in promoting good mental health. Because of this, we should explore ways to help you and your teen cope over the summer.
Set and Maintain Routines
When teens stay up late, sleep in, snack instead of eating well-balanced meals, and forgo typical daily routines, they lose a sense of structure and consistency. Unfortunately, this lack of structure can cause a teen's already fragile mental health to decline which can cause more stress.
Therefore, it is imperative for teens to maintain a regular routine that includes some semblance of structure and normalcy. You can help your teen create a routine with established sleep and wake times, meal times, and socialization.
- Create a calm home environment
- Make quality and focused face-to-face interaction a priority
- Provide a list of chores
- Promote outside activities – volunteerism, sports, art, dance, music, etc.
Validate Your Child's Feelings
The lack of connection to friends and classmates has also made the past year difficult, especially if your teen attended school remotely. As restrictions begin to lift, your teen may still experience a great deal of anxiety.
- Let them know that it is okay to be angry, sad, or afraid
- Encourage them to talk about their feelings
- Focus on listening, not lecturing
- Show love and acceptance
Signs To Look For
While you know your teen best, it isn’t always easy to differentiate between normal teenage behaviors and mental health challenges, there are some signs that should not be ignored.
- Changes in speech
- Unusual behaviors – spending a lot of time alone, crying, extremely sensitive, poor sleeping habits
- Physical changes – lack of energy, headaches, new nervous habits (cutting, nail biting, pulling hair, etc.)
- Running away, reckless behavior, or violence
Seek Help If Needed
While some issues are expected, there are times when your teen may experience symptoms that may go beyond your comfort zone, and that’s okay! Please utilize all available resources to best help your teen. These include but are not limited to your school’s counseling staff, a primary care doctor, a licensed psychologist, or family therapist. Any of these professionals can provide your teen with necessary coping skills to process their emotions in healthy ways. Please know that there is no shame in seeking help!
Clinton Mosley is the first African American Upper School Counselor at Bullis school and has a passion for empowering students to be their best; emotionally, socially, and mentally. Prior to joining the Bullis family, Clinton was a Middle School Counselor in Prince George’s County and has been working with high school and middle school families for 11 years. He is the proud father of a 15 year old young lady, a graduate of Alcorn State University with a Master's degree in Education, and a member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. In his free time, he enjoys playing chess, mentoring young adults and parents, coaching sports, and traveling.
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