How to Deal with Tween & Teen Anxiety During COVID-19

We have received an outpouring of emails asking for help and tips when it comes to dealing with tween and teen anxiety, especially during these uncertain times.

There has been much emphasis on the increasing anxiety in this age group as of late. It's a known fact that children today are being raised in a seemingly more demanding society than we were. The influences that come from living in a digital culture ruled by smartphones, tablets, laptops, and of course, social media, cannot be underscored enough. Add COVID-19 to the mix and anxiety has become an even bigger issue for many families.

Worrying during the coronavirus outbreak is natural, but managing anxiety can be difficult, especially if you're cut off from your usual routine and network of support, as many of us now are now.

Here's how you can help your tweens and teens during this uncertain time.

Ask Questions and Get the Facts
Check in with your child and ask what questions they have. Acknowledge and don't dismiss their fears. They may have concerns about grades, sports seasons and cancelled field trips or events they had been looking forward to. They might be missing their friends. They are afraid of the virus. Hear out their concerns. Once you have some information as background, make sure that you get the proper facts. Choose a time for discussion that works for your family and avoid talking about tough topics right before bedtime. Learn the facts about COVID-19, sticking to a few credible sources of information, such as Toronto Public HealthPublic Health Agency of Canada, the CDC and World Health Organization.

Limit Social Media and the News
Encourage your children to use social media first and foremost as a way to connect with family and friends during a time when they might feel isolated. If they are online logged on to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or Reddit for news, make sure they are being smart about it. While it's important to stay current with developments, it's not helpful to consume every bit of news provided. They should be careful about where they are getting their information and only use sources that are credible and reliable. Helping tweens and teens understand the news and how to separate fact from fiction is an important job for parents. Too much information and the wrong information can be overwhelming.

Create a Routine
Establishing a daily routine gives your children a sense of personal structure that is vital for managing emotional stress during a challenging time. Set up a timetable for daily activities and set boundaries around them. Maintaining your school year routine while at home during this isolation period is more important than ever, as routine grounds your kids.

Adult Colouring Books
While colouring is a great activity for toddlers, it can actually be very beneficial and help older kids combat stress. Colouring generates wellness, quietness and also stimulates brain areas related to motor skills, the senses and creativity. You can order adult versions of colouring books online. Many companies are currently offering free shipping.

Kids Help Line
If your kids have trouble opening up to you, have them reach out to a professional, via the Kids Help Line phone service. It's Canada’s only 24/7, national support service that offers professional counselling, information and referrals, and volunteer-led, text-based support to youth in both English and French. Counsellors can be reached at 1-800-668-6868.

Journaling can help kids get worried thoughts and feelings out of their head and body. This helps counterbalance negative thought patterns by focusing on the good. Start by having them free write for a few minutes to let their emotions flow out. Then have them follow that up with journaling a gratitude list of 10 things they are grateful for - doing this daily will help kids realize they actually to have a lot to be thankful for. Day by day, they will appreciate life more and find themselves feeling happier.

Exercise and Keep Fit
Keeping a fitness regiment right now is crucial for both mental and physical health. Go for regular walks or runs, ride your bike, while staying away from crowds. Releasing endorphins is an effective way to fight stress and anxiety, and to give your mind a break from everything. If you're staying inside, stream a workout online. Many online fitness platforms are offering free workouts right now. Or, find an online yoga class for relaxation.

Get Fresh Air
Check local guidelines for your community to make sure it's safe to go outside; stay local and distance yourself from others. Just stepping out of your home or in your backyard for some fresh air can help to clear your mind and cleanse any anxious thoughts.

Have them Focus on What They Can Control
Have your tweens/teens focus on the facts and what they can control. Avoid catastrophizing. It's easy to get stressed and anxious about the scale of the outbreak, and to feel powerless when you're scrolling through scary headlines. Accept those feelings as they are normal. Have them focus on what they can control: washing hands, practicing social distancing, and following other CDC guidelines, emphasizing that they too, are part of the solution to curb the spread. Remind them that not every sneeze is coronavirus, and that most do recover. Do your best to remind them, yourself and others of this reality.

Set Aside Quiet Time or Meditate, Try Relaxation Music
Tweens and Teens can practice guided breathing, meditation, or visualization, using meditation apps, to help them relax or sleep better. Even 10 minutes a day will help!

Try the following apps or videos...

Sleep Songs for Children & Teens
A 2 hour YouTube video - More

Soft Music for Kids to Sleep: Relaxing Music for Kids 8 Years+
YouTube video - More

Smiling Mind
This mindfulness activities app is for kids of all ages. Offers breathing meditations, sensory exercises, and music. Free. More

Three Good Things
This Happiness Journal for kids is free and helps kids build mindfulness based on a simple premise: if kids write down three good things that happen to them each day, they’ll feel happier. Ages 4+. Free. More

Stop, Breathe, Think
Stop, Breathe & Think is an award winning meditation and mindfulness app that helps you find peace anywhere. It allows you to check in with your emotions, and recommends short guided meditations, yoga and acupressure videos, tuned to how you feel. Ages 4+. Free. More

The Calm app offers a new meditation every day, along with 7 to 21 day meditation programs like “7 Days of Calming Anxiety” or “7 Days of Focus.” Most of the meditations are guided, but there are options for unguided timed meditations, too. Kids can also listen to sounds like ocean waves or wind. It’s free to try the app’s first program and a few stand-alone guided meditations. There’s a fee to access more. Calm is best for teens and young adults. More

Remind Them That Things Will Get Better
While it may be difficult right now to look past immediate fears and anxiety, it's important to remind your family that things will not always be this way. Many, many crises have occurred before and have been resolved over time.

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