By Nancy Ryan
Marriage and Family Therapist
Fair Oaks, California
April 30th, 2020
Online Therapy For Teens During Times Of Corona Virus
Is your teen struggling with the effects of social distancing? Online teen therapy can help them cope with corona virus changes.
When the corona virus began spreading across the globe, no one was exempt from change. Regardless of whether or not you or someone you know was actually diagnosed with the virus, the effects of COVID-19 have been drastic. If you have a teenager in the house, you can be sure they are feeling the effects of social distancing as much as the rest of us, and chances are, they may need some help coping, (even if they don’t ask for it).
The good news is that your teen is probably already a pro at text messaging, video chat, and social media, the things that are keeping us connected during this time. It’s also likely they are using social platforms that you don’t even know about, let alone are comfortable using. These may include apps for virtual board games, karaoke, or movie nights, among others.
However, even with all this technology, teenagers are facing many challenges. From missing out on large, one-time events like school dances, yearbook signings, and graduation, to smaller, everyday interactions like seeing their friends and participating in classroom discussions, teenagers’ lives have been put on hold and it’s likely causing them to feel frustrated, disappointed, anxious, and/or depressed.
How Online Teen Therapy Can Help
Online therapy is a safe space where your teen can talk to an adult (someone other than a parent) about what they are seeing and hearing in the world and how they are feeling about it all. Not only does this give them a voice and make them feel heard and validated, but it also lets them know it’s ok to have feelings. It’s important that they learn that however they are feeling in response to this pandemic – anxious, depressed, lonely, isolated – it is completely normal and totally ok.
Too often, our younger populations will mask sadness and other vulnerable emotions with anger, defensiveness, or irritability. Therapy can help your teen identify and accept their feelings and learn new ways to resolve them. For example, the grief that comes from suddenly having once-in-a-lifetime events such as prom and end-of-the-year parties taken away or the heightened sense of loneliness due to shelter-in-place mandates and increased exposure to social media.
Online therapy can also help teenagers cope with corona virus changes by teaching them self-care tips and techniques to manage anxiety. All of us can benefit from learning to self-soothe and distract ourselves when our levels of anxiety rise, and a therapist can share mindfulness techniques such as breathing, exercise, and meditation. Right now, teenagers may be more inclined to embrace mindfulness as a lifestyle because of its current popularity in mainstream culture and among influencers, celebrities, and sports figures.
This unique time we are living in is an opportunity to deepen our empathy and awareness of others, as well as ourselves. If a teen in your house is growing frustrated with social distancing rules, a therapist can help them see that social distancing is important not only for their own health, but for the health and safety of others in the at-risk population – grandparents, teachers, and neighbors, etc.
The teenage years are a time of experimentation and identity formation; a time when we want to define ourselves away from our parents. As such, social distancing may be particularly challenging for teenagers who are isolated at home with the very people they are trying to take space away from. Additionally, without routine or structure, teens are more likely to stay up late, sleep past noon, and can easily develop unhealthy eating patterns.
Increased exposure to screens and social media may also exacerbate feelings of loneliness and anxiety. With everything piling up, it’s no wonder that teenagers may be struggling to stay happy or motivated. However, how we react to adversity shapes who we become and this is an opportunity for us all to become stronger and more resilient than we were before. With the help of a therapist, your teenager will make it through to the other side of COVID-19 as a stronger, kinder, and more resilient human.
About The Author
After 25+ years in the corporate world, Nancy Ryan, LMFT finished her Masters Degree in Psychology as a working adult and spent her part time hours working toward licensure. Fully licensed, she left the corporate world and made the transition to working in a private practice office. Years of her own personal growth, therapy and recovery have given Nancy an ability to fully relate with clients intuitively and use her experience and training to help clients . After building a thriving private practice, she launched the Relationship Therapy Center to help more people get the quality therapy they were looking for. Because the center specializes in couples, she went on to become the only Gottman Certified Therapist (an evidence-based couples counseling method) in the Sacramento area and all her staff also are trained in the Gottman Method.