Adolescents and Social Isolation

Meeting Your Child's Needs During COVID & Virtual Schooling

Teenagers are social beings. Social interaction is essential during adolescent development. Strong relational connections are necessary for healthy social and emotional growth. Adolescents seek out and thrive on social interactions daily, whether at school, at their job, at extracurricular activities, at family gatherings, at outings with their peers or at other social events. The pandemic has forced social distancing and virtual schooling, leaving teens feeling socially isolated. Social isolation has a variety of implications, including adverse impacts on their physical health, mental health, school performance and sleep habits, just to name a few. It is more important than ever for parents of teens to closely monitor the possible effects of social isolation. Parents may need to support their child to creatively engage in and maintain safe social connections during these especially challenging times. It is also important for parents to help their teens to take care of themselves and to monitor their teens' physical and mental health.
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SELF CARE

During this challenging time, as your adolescent is experiencing increased feelings of social isolation, it is especially important for your teen to practice good self-care. Further, keep in mind that teens learn from their caregivers, and so it is important for you to model healthy self-care in your own life. The World Health Organization defines self-care as "the ability of individuals, families and communities to promote health, prevent disease, maintain health and cope with illness and disability with or without the support of a healthcare provider". Self-care can, and should, be something that we practice regularly in order to ensure that we are able to perform as our best selves in our day-to-day lives. Self-care is not selfish or indulgent, but rather, it is a way to ensure that you are performing as your best self so that you can take care of yourself and care for those around you.


BELOW ARE SOME HELPFUL GRAPHICS THAT ELABORATE ON SELF CARE:

A SELF-CARE PLAN

One way to make self-care a priority in your daily life is to make a "Self-Care Plan". In the Self-Care Plan included here, you'll see that the plan includes specific sections, titled "Mental", "Physical" and "Emotional". There are other types of self-care, including social, spiritual, personal, space, financial and work, and these and any other categories important to you can be included in this Self-Care Plan. This plan can be used to include specific self-care activities that correspond with each section, which will help your teen to target their feelings of social isolation. This Self-Care Plan then becomes a visual that your teen can use as a reminder to hold themselves accountable and ensure that they maintain their focus on self-care in their daily life.
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THE BENEFITS OF MINDFULNESS

In addition to the self-care ideas discussed here, one other way that teens can manage the impacts of feeling social isolated is with the practice of mindfulness. Mindful.org describes mindfulness as 'the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we're doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what's going on around us". Also according to mindful.org, mindfulness is known to reduce stress, gain insight and awareness into our own thoughts and increase our attention to the well-being of others. View the video below to learn how mindfulness can benefit your adolescent:
Under Pressure - 2018 Version - Mindfulness in Schools - Mindfulness for Teens

KNOW THE SIGNS...

Adolescence can be a challenging time on a good day. Add in a pandemic, and those challenges are exacerbated. Academic difficulties, social isolation, self-esteem struggles, among other needs, become complicated when teenagers are not able to attend school, work, and interact with their extended family and their peers in a “normal” preferred manner. Thus, it becomes more important for those around them, especially their caregivers who spend the most time with them and know them the best, to pay close attention to them and to any potential warning signs. These warning signs that may have started as developmentally appropriate behaviors may now become symptoms of a mental health concern. It is important to be mindful of those signs that something is outside the realm of what is “typical”, even during a pandemic. Just a few examples of atypical emotions or behaviors for a teenager may include excessive worrying, extreme sadness, changes in sleep patterns, loss of interest in things that they used to enjoy or care about, anger/outbursts and change in appetite. If you notice such concerns in your teen, please don't hesitate to reach out to your teen's school counselor, school social worker or school psychologist. Additionally, below are help lines, web sites and crisis text lines available to you and/or your teen:
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FOR MORE INFORMATION ON HOW TO SUPPORT YOUR ADOLESCENT DURING THIS TIME OF COVID AND VIRTUAL LEARNING, VIEW THESE ADDITIONAL RESOURCES:

Created by Michelle Wilson, LCSW

PWCS School Social Worker