Give teens tools for managing distress during COVID-19 crisis

A new poll provides insights on how adolescents are coping with the COVID-19 pandemic, and where their concerns lie. The poll, conducted by Common Sense Media and Survey Monkey, included questions about loneliness, how teenagers are staying in touch with friends and family outside the home, where they do their school work, and how they get their information about COVID-19, among other questions.

What does this poll tell us about how teenagers are feeling right now? Girls feel lonelier than boys, although they also tend to be more active in online school, and teenagers are concerned that the pandemic may affect their academic future, and their family’s health and financial underpinnings.

These are real stressors and cause for parents to want to step in to give reassurance, to help take away the upset and uncomfortable emotions that are percolating at this time.

But New York Times best-selling author and psychologist, Lisa Damour, offers a different approach. Rather than coach teenagers on how to “stay positive” during this uncertain time, Damour recommends parents “help them make room for uncomfortable emotions.”  In other words, give teens support while also helping them navigate their psychological distress. Damour writes: “Psychological health, however, is not about being free from emotional discomfort, but about having the right feeling at the right time, and being able to bear the unpleasant ones.”

Damour goes on to explain some guidelines for helping teenagers address and understand their emotions, and adapt ways to “manage their psychological distress.” It’s a compelling approach and one Damour insists can help better prepare adolescents for the difficulties they’ll experience through all stages of their lives.

To see Damour’s guidelines and read the full New York Times article, click here.

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