COVID-19 has overshadowed most of 2020, causing a lot of negative impact on millions of people’s mental health in the U.S. alone. People report higher levels of anxiety, stress, depression, and a real fear of coping with a pandemic no one was prepared to handle. It has been particularly devastating for younger people who do not have the life experience or age needed to handle the epidemic on a more adult level. When an adolescent is already dealing with one or more mental health issues and abuse of alcohol or drugs, referred to as co-occurring disorders, the stakes are even higher. Several things directly related to COVID-19 are potential triggers for adolescents in treatment, making it essential for their treatment providers to know how to help them work through them.
Adolescents rely on the structure of their regular school schedule, even if they sometimes struggle in their classes. When schools began to close down in the spring, many students found themselves without the anchor they had taken for granted for years. Initially, it was thought that by the beginning of the next school year, classes would be back in session. Still, many school districts have chosen not to reopen or only allow students to attend in-person part-time. Schools had to scramble to provide appropriate distance learning for their students, leaving parents and children in the lurch as they waited for new policies to be announced and enacted.
If a client’s parents are unsure how best to help their children adjust to the new school rules, give them some pointers. Parents should talk to their child’s teacher and make sure they are clear on the new school schedule and what is expected of the students. If their child experiences limits or difficulties due to their mental illness, they should discuss possible options with the teacher to help them succeed. Share this information with your child and let them know they will be expected to work independently at times but are welcome to ask for a parent’s assistance. Ask that the parents share what they learn with you to work as a team while helping the child transition to distance learning. Let the child know that every other student and the faculty are scrambling to adapt to the new normal, and perfection is not expected.
The Boredom of Quarantining
Staying at home nearly 24/7 is difficult for people of all ages. Still, an adolescent may feel like they’ve been grounded through no fault of their own. Encourage your child to keep in touch with their friends via electronic options, such as text, telephone, and online meeting programs. Although meeting up in person is not advisable, it’s important not to entirely isolate. Doing so can increase levels of depression and anxiety, which contribute to poorer mental health.
Establish new schedules within the home that keep quarantining from feeling like endless days of boredom. Activities like movie night, playing board games, or other family plans can give structure. Weather permitting, include walks around the neighborhood or an outside activity done as a family. While a child still benefits from time alone, even during the pandemic, look for signs that they may be using alcohol or drugs to self-medicate.
The Negative News Cycle
Understandably, parents want to be up-to-date on all COVID-19 related developments, but exposure to too much news can have harsh consequences for the whole family. Limiting TV news, as well as discussion centered around the latest negative news stories and statistics, can help your child feel less vulnerable. While younger people need to stay informed, consider that they have less ability to interpret the news. They also tend to take one negative aspect of it and apply it to the feeling that everything in their lives and future is entirely out of control. Talk to your child about what news they have seen or read and discuss it together to help them process it.
Be a Role Model
Adolescents watch their parents for signs of how they are coping, making it essential to be mindful of words and actions. Parents need to communicate to their children that while things may feel bleak, society is learning more about how to act. There will eventually be a return to a more normal way of life. Encourage the child to continue any treatment appointments and prescribed medication to help them continue on the path to healing. If the child exhibits signs of needing more intensive help with their co-occurring disorders, seek options such as outpatient or residential programs.
Living in a world gripped by COVID-19 is difficult enough for the average person. An adolescent dealing with co-occurring disorders may find that they face many triggers that threaten their ability to effectively manage their mental health and any trouble with abuse of alcohol or drugs. Therapists can partner with parents to provide their adolescent clients with the help they need. Kids can learn to deal with triggers, such as distance learning, social distancing, and the barrage of negative news. If the pandemic triggers have proven too overwhelming for a child to cope with, Sustain Recovery can provide multiples types of programs. Each option is designed for a young clientele to help manage their mental health and any accompanying addiction. Located in Southern California, our treatment professionals offer multiple types of therapies that teach children to thrive and reach their potential and their families to help them recover (949) 407-9052.