COVID-19 has affected almost every person around the world, and every facet of life from businesses to families. In this article we’ll look at how the pandemic is affecting teenagers and students, and give some tips for parents on how to talk to teens about the new coronavirus.
Teenagers are in a unique stage in life when they are still developing and learning how to cope with the complexities of life, and so the coronavirus pandemic may hit them especially hard as they learn to navigate these unsettling times.
Overview Of COVID-19
Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that range from the common cold to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). The most recent coronavirus (sometimes referred to as the novel coronavirus) is called COVID-19, and was first detected in Wuhan, China in December 2019.
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How Is It Transmitted?
COVID-19 is transmitted from person to person through water droplets from the nose or mouth when someone with the virus coughs, sneezes, or exhales. The droplets can land on other objects which others may touch and end up by their nose or mouth. Others can also breathe in the droplets — this is why there is a big emphasis on social distancing during this pandemic.
What Are The COVID-19 Symptoms?
The most common symptoms include a fever and a dry cough, and some people may experience aches, sore throat, congestion, runny nose, or diarrhea.
Some people may have the virus but don’t show any symptoms at all, while older people and those with underlying medical conditions are more likely to get sick and develop complications in the lungs.
How This Is Affecting Teens
Worldwide, schools and universities have shut their doors for the indefinite future. Some schools have moved to online learning and distance education, while others have improvised regular lessons to include an hour or two of online classes a day.
Disruptions in Schedule
With these new changes, children and teens no longer have their usual routines and schedules in place. With the new reality of an almost worldwide lockdown, teenagers may struggle along with their parents to establish some sort of schedule at home.
Separated from Friends
Many teens are separated from their classmates and friends, while coping with new school formats and being at home 24/7 with their families. Though many people are sacrificing their social lives for the sake of social distancing, for teenagers, being away from friends and forced to spend all day at home with their parents and siblings adds up to every teen’s nightmare.
Inundated with Information Online
Along with these day-to-day changes, teens are being inundated with information about COVID-19 online and on the media. With the online access that today’s teenagers have, teens during the coronavirus pandemic are likely overwhelmed with the variety of information that they are seeing, as well as the general panic of the news media. This can add up to a lot of misinformation and anxiety if not handled in the right way.
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What Parents Can Do To Support Their Teens
1. Ask What They Know
Since teenagers have an incredible amount of access to information online, the first thing any parent can do is ask their teenager what information they have already gathered about COVID-19, and which resources they are using (if any) to find out what is happening.
This allows parents to then answer questions, dispel myths and worries, and point their teen in the right direction if their sources are unreliable or overly sensationalized.
2. Find Reliable Sources
If parents haven’t already found a reliable source for information and news, now is a great time to search for them in order to direct their teenagers better. Direct sources for reliable information about the coronavirus pandemic include the World Health Organization or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
3. Answer Questions
During this unsettling time, teenagers may be dealing with a lot of questions and anxiety. They may wonder if they or their family are going to die, whether their pets can catch or transmit the disease, why they need to stay at home, and why their schools are closed. All these questions will be swirling around in their mind, and they may or may not ask their parents for answers.
Parents can be proactive and engage their teenagers by asking them if they have any questions about the situation, or talk to them about some of the common concerns mentioned above. Having a calm attitude and sharing trusted information can go a long way to help teenagers feel less anxious.
4. Encourage Critical Thinking And Learning
Parents can encourage their teens to think and learn more about the situation (for those personalities that cope better with more information).
Some helpful discussions to engage curious teenagers can include:
- The reasons behind a citywide lockdown (if relevant)
- The reasons for closing schools
- How the coronavirus, and viruses in general, are transmitted
- The best ways to prevent transmission
5. Encourage Media Breaks
If teenagers are feeling overwhelmed, anxious, or irritated, parents can help by encouraging them to take breaks from the media that may be exacerbating these feelings. All people, including teenagers, can benefit from taking a break from technology, getting fresh air if possible, and engaging in fun or relaxing activities.
6. Stay Calm And Healthy
Demonstrating an attitude of calm, positive thinking can help everyone in the household, including teenagers, cope better with the unsettling situation. In addition, being aware of health, such as getting enough sleep, nutrients, and exercise, can go a long way to help stay safe and boost mental and physical health.
7. Encourage A Schedule
With everyone home from school and work, it’s important to establish a schedule for everyone in the house. This can include tasks, activities, and normal routines such as bedtimes and dinner times.
Establishing schedules are a great way to give children and teenagers a sense of order when situations in the world seem chaotic and uncertain. It is also helpful for staying productive and positive while everyone is at home together.
8. Continue To Do What’s Important
Similarly, teens can benefit from inspiration and encouragement. It is important for both adults and teens to continue planning for the future and investing in goals and activities that are important and meaningful. If teens are finishing up high school and planning to apply for college, now is a great time to continue with those plans, even if things seem up in the air.
How The COVID-19 Pandemic Has Impacted College Students
High school students making the transition to college next year find themselves in an unusual situation. Unable to visit campuses, as most students and parents do, potential students are being offered virtual tours and other information online. For many students, this makes the application process, not to mention the decision process, a more difficult one.
University students studying abroad have had a difficult start to the spring semester. Many students opted to return home from their universities, and those that opted to stay have faced challenges concerning their housing plans, visas, and steadily growing travel restrictions.
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Whether students are looking into college options or find themselves in limbo due to COVID-19, learning and earning a degree online may be a beneficial choice. As an example, University of the People offers tuition-free degrees in business administration, health science, computer science, and education. The degrees are completely online, so students can study anytime and anywhere in the world.
The Bottom Line
Parents can help their teenagers by being available to answer questions and direct them to reliable sources of information, as well as encourage them to maintain a healthy and positive schedule. By learning how to talk to teens about the new coronavirus, parents can also teach their teens how to cope with stressful situations that may arise in their future.