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Encouraging teen wellbeing throughout COVID-19

28 May 2020

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Suncorp has collaborated on this article with our friends at Business Chicks Australia’s largest and most influential community for women. Whether they’re running their own show, surrounded by others in an office, or just missing a sense of connection and support, Business Chicks is all about giving women the tools they need to propel themselves and their businesses forward.

Dr Jodie Lowinger from The Sydney Anxiety Clinic shares useful advice on ways you can support your teens during difficult times.

A teenager’s mental health can be precarious at the best of times, but with the addition of a global pandemic, negative thoughts and feelings can start to spiral. The cancellation of celebrating milestones, the shifting of everyday life, changing friendships, different schooling and new family dynamics within the home can cause confusion and upset that you may feel ill-equipped to help your teens with.

Along with our friends at Business Chicks, we sought guidance from the esteemed Dr Jodie Lowinger to offer tips on how to help your kids manage anxiety throughout this difficult time. This is a period that your kids will remember forever, and it’s important that you help make it a time of strength and renewed resilience.

Why is this especially hard on teenagers?

The COVID-19 crisis means teens might be missing out on some big moments in their young lives – as well as everyday things like catching up with friends and participating in sport or activities. All of this while coming to grips with the impact of an unprecedented global crisis. Teens may be feeling disappointed, anxious and isolated.

How can I reach out?

It’s important to acknowledge your teen’s feelings at this time, even if those feelings appear unnecessary or irrational. Well-meaning attempts to explain why “things aren’t that bad’, might sound to a teen like their feelings aren’t being taken seriously.

Acknowledging feelings will make your teen feel understood, supported and safe.

What do I do if they express feelings of anxiety?

Explain that some anxiety is a normal, healthy function that helps them to make decisions that ultimately protect them and their community – like washing their hands, not spending time in large groups, and trying to not touch their faces. Most teens have a wonderful social conscience and will take their role in protecting their community seriously which gives them a real sense of purpose.

It is when anxiety escalates to unmanageable levels that it becomes a problem. Encourage your teen to limit their exposure to constant media coverage about the crisis which can heighten their anxiety.

How is the best way to help?

Help your teen look forward by shifting their focus from what was lost. Talk about and identify ways to move on with proactive plans and goals. This will help them move from anxiety to action. It’s understandable that your teen will be feeling disappointed about missing out on planned and anticipated events.

Let them express their feelings and acknowledge them. Empathise with their feelings of disappointment. Share your own disappointments and how you are managing your feelings.

Be a role model of resilience, helping your teens to recognise that all feelings are okay and how they can respond to those feelings with helpful and resilient actions.

What should I do if their anxiety is escalating?

Occasional bad moods and acting out are to be expected from our teens, but pay attention if they escalate. When anxiety intensifies to uncontrollable levels, it becomes a problem. “Encourage your teen to limit their exposure to constant media coverage about the crisis which can heighten their anxiety.”

Dr Jodie Lowinger suggests sourcing fact based information from no more than two authorised sources like the Australian Government’s Health Alert or the World Health Organisation.

Connect with a mental health professional early – don’t wait and hope that things will go away. Be reassured in knowing that scientifically supported strategies for teenage mental health are highly effective and problems can typically be turned around quickly.

What resources can we look to?

The Sydney Anxiety Clinic offers remote video conferencing therapy for anxiety, stress, mood and behavioural challenges for parents, children and teenagers. There are also an abundance of online resources from reputable sites for easy digital access to tools and strategies to help.

Business Chicks and Suncorp Team Girls have teamed up to bring you the Business Chicks of the Future content series. Visit the hub to find more content to equip you to build meaningful connections with your teen and tween girls in order to build their confidence, strengthen their mental health and overcome difficult circumstances.

For more information on how Suncorp is helping to build a nation of confident girls, visit the Team Girls website. 

Read the original interview with Dr Jodi Lowinger.

Read more:

If your child, or anyone you know is having issues with self-esteem, confidence or mental or physical health, please contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800.

This content includes the views and opinions of a third-party, and does not necessarily reflect the views of Suncorp. Information is intended to be of a general nature only and any advice has been prepared without taking into account any person's particular objectives, personal situation or needs.

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