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It’s tough to maintain sanity as a parent during the COVID-19 lockdown. It’s clear that this pandemic is having a huge impact on mental health: A recent Kaiser Family Foundation survey found that over half of U.S. adults (56%) report that worry related to the coronavirus outbreak has caused them stress-induced symptoms like insomnia, poor appetite or overeating, or frequent headaches or stomach aches.
And we are clearly seeing the impacts of social isolation in a 1,000% increase in calls to distress hotlines in April alone.
Kids and teens are struggling, too. So how can you best help your homeschool student weather the pandemic? We’ll suggest several tips in this blog post.
Signs that your teen is struggling
According to Mental Health First Aid, look for these indicators:
- Feeling stressed or overwhelmed, frustrated or angry, worried or anxious.
- Feeling restless, agitated, on “high alert” or unable to calm down.
- Being teary, sad, fatigued or tired, losing interest in usually enjoyable activities or finding it difficult to feel happy.
- Worrying about going to public spaces, becoming unwell or contracting germs.
- Constantly thinking about the situation, unable to move on or think about much else.
- Experiencing physical symptoms such as increased fatigue or other uncomfortable sensations.
Here are some tips to help your student cope:
1. Keep a regular routine
It can be easy to let a schedule slip during trying times—staying up late, sleeping in, and delaying schoolwork. But creating a routine and sticking to it as much as possible is a big step toward better mental health for you and your family. At the same time, keep things flexible and give grace to jump off the routine from time to time.
2. Help your student stay connected socially
It goes without saying that one of the biggest downsides of the lockdown for teens is not being able to see their friends. Loosening restrictions on social media is one way to help your teens cope. You can also work to set up social time between friends while practicing social distancing.
3. Help your student grieve loses
Your family might be directly impacted by COVID-19 through the loss of a loved one. But even the indirect impact of extended lockdowns could mean that your teen has experienced other types of loss as well. For example, high school seniors are missing out on graduation ceremonies, proms, and other milestones and rites of passage. Even missing the regular routine of homeschool co-op classes, drama groups, or sporting activities is hard. And their fall college plans have also been thrown into disarray. Helping your teen process emotions from these losses is a big step.
4. Help your student keep moving
One of the best ways to fight the blues is by moving your body. As the weather warms up across the country, outside physical activity will get even easier. Or you can try out one of the countless streaming exercise videos available online.
5. Give your teen new responsibilities
Staying connected to the family through additional responsibilities could be a good way to improve your teen’s mental health. Have them help with care for younger children, with household chores, or with yard work. Also consider giving your teen some power to make decisions, such as putting them in charge of making dinner once a week.
6. Pick your battles
Pushback from teens is a way of life. That’s true all the time, but especially during trying times like these. So, pick your battles and try to focus on the essentials.
7. Be OK with things not being perfect
Life will get back to normal eventually, even if it’s a modified “new normal” that looks a bit different than what we’re used to. In the meantime, it’s important that you give yourself and your teen room to struggle. Things won’t be perfect, and that’s OK.