How to Talk to Your Teen About the Coronavirus
With a global pandemic resulting in a continuous 24-hour news cycle swirl, it’s quite likely that teens — with rampant access to information on their phones and devices — have heard a lot about the coronavirus. In the midst of this swirl — and with social distancing limiting interaction with friends — teens may be left feeling vulnerable and anxious. How can you talk to your teen about the coronavirus when so many variables are uncertain? We’ve rounded up ten tips to help you support your teen:
- Be calm.
- Lend a listening ear.
A great way to uncover any misunderstandings or misperceptions your teen has about the coronavirus is to listen and let them speak. Teens are likely to hear about the virus from their friends, social media, and the news — before assuming what your teen already knows about the pandemic, ask them what they’ve read and heard.
- Respect what they’re feeling.
If your teen is anxious and concerned about the pandemic, resist glossing over their concerns with attempted reassurances like, “Everyone will be fine.” Instead, try to understand what your teen is feeling, and give them space to share their fears. Let them know that what they’re feeling is natural and expected.
- Be honest and direct.
Since anxiety can flourish under conditions of uncertainty, be as transparent with your teen as much as possible. Answer your teen’s questions about the coronavirus directly to avoid confusion or misunderstanding. If you don’t know the answer to a question, say, “That’s an excellent question…let’s find the answer together.”
- Make them feel safe.
While the world may feel very unsafe right now, it’s important to reassure your teen that they can take measures to stay safe, such as staying inside the house and frequently washing their hands. Let them know that you are there for them if they ever want to talk or vent, and that you are taking necessary measures to protect your household.
- Redirect any unproductive lines of thinking.
Watch out for any misinformation that surfaces in your conversation with your teen, as well as any harmful stereotyping. If your teen is dealing with the pandemic with humor, that can be a natural response — but discourage them from using humor as their only channel to talk about the virus.
- Encourage critical media consumption.
The coronavirus pandemic presents an opportunity to educate your teen on how to become a discerning consumer of information. Many teens may be getting their information on social media, which can be a breeding ground for misinformation and sensationalism. Sit down and visit trustworthy sources together, like the CDC and the World Health Organization (WHO).
- Empower them to know that they’re doing the right thing for the common good.
Your teen may be feeling frustrated and isolated because they miss their friends, or because they can’t visit their favorite places. Emphasize to your teen that social distancing is necessary to protect everyone in the community — including vulnerable populations, like the elderly and immunocompromised — and that by doing their part, they can be an everyday hero.
- Maintain a sense of normalcy and routine.
Without the framework of a traditional school day, your teen may feel unmotivated, or restless with cabin fever. Implementing a “new normal” schedule can help to mentally distinguish parts of their day. Keep them diligent with their studies, but also dedicate productive times and break times. Maintaining that schedule can minimize the feelings of sluggishness that come from a day spent in bed.
- Emphasize what they can do.
In the face of a global pandemic, your teen – like many others – may feel powerless. Equipping them with simple actions that they can perform to help keep themselves safe may restore their sense of self-efficacy. Look for ways to include your teen in your household’s preparedness measures — from organizing supplies and babysitting younger siblings to helping fix meals and frequent handwashing.
Because teens are emotional beings, it’s incredibly important that you remain calm and reassuring. “When parents and caregivers deal with the COVID-19 calmly and confidently, they can provide the best support for their children,” advises the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). When you provide a measured and rational response, your teen can model similar behavior the next time they’re upset.
Increased awareness can only mean increased prevention. Join us in the fight against teen cough medicine abuse by exploring and sharing our free resources.