How to help your teen through depression, anxiety during COVID-19

Posted at 11:57 AM, Apr 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-17 13:33:54-04

HARKER HEIGHTS, TX — Social distancing has been difficult for most, but experts say it may be especially challenging for teens.

"One of the primary challenges developmentally, in adolescence for all of us, is identity development, identity formation, figuring out who you are,“ said Dr. Sam Fiala, Professor & Chair, Department of Counseling & Psychology at A&M Central Texas.

Fiala explained social distancing may put more stress on teens as they are away from their friends, and thus not forming their identity through socializing.

She also said structure and keeping a general routine can help make sure your child is less apt to stress, anxiety and potentially depression.

“You can set some anchors in terms of meal times and bedtimes,“ said Fiala, but he advises, routines do not have to be rigid.

He said the signs of depression and anxiety can manifest differently in teens.

“It’s a time of fluctuating mood, uncertainty, anxiety, so a lot of that is normative, in terms of when these things could be becoming problematic, and you might want to seek some help, some outside intervention, if you see changes, abrupt changes in mood,” Fiala said.

She also said that abrupt changes in appetite, sleep patterns, loss of interest in things they once loved, or feelings of hopelessness can be signs to seek help.

“With depression in particular, it can manifest an irritability in teenagers more than it does in adults, so that something to keep an eye out for,” said Fiala.

He advocated for parents to help children connect with friends, whether via the phone, social media, or even gaming.

“One of the best things that you can do for your teenager, for their anxiety and depression, is to do all the things you can to take care of your anxiety and depression,“ said Fiala.

She said the general attitude of the household can greatly affect your teen.

Saying that "it’s never too early to seek help, one of the most important things I think we can do is de-stigmatize seeking out mental health counseling."

The first step he advises in finding help is contacting your insurance provider, and if you do not have insurance, the counseling department at A&M Central Texas can help steer you in the right direction.