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Teens: Managing during Global Pandemic

Updated: May 11, 2020

Each one of use deals with stress and anxiety differently and I am certain ALL of us are feeling a bit of it right now. If you are not, I truly believe you are in denial. Radical changes in routine and changes in what we know or hold to be truth are going to impact you in one way or another. Living through the realities of a global pandemic is rocking everyone's world.


The teen years are some of the most challenging we all face without a global crisis. During this time in our lives we are simply trying to figure out who we are. Questions like:

  • What do I want to be when I grow up?

  • Where do I want to be a year from now? Ten years from now?

  • How am I unique from my family? How am I the same?

  • How do I fit in? How do I want to fit in? Do I want to be that person? Do I want to be known for that?

This is the time, as teens, we begin our journey into adulthood. We learn to drive, we get our first jobs. We graduate high school. We launch from our family homes. We go off to college or the military or decide to travel Europe by backpack for the summer, or whatever is right for us right now.


In this time of global crisis many of our teens are facing uncertainty in their immediate futures. Their world has been turned upside down and sideways. How do we help them through this, when as adults, we are even struggling to navigate these uncertain waters?


1. Open the Lines of Communication. We have to acknowledge that this is scary and a bit out of everyone's control. We do not know what the future holds. But we do know these truths. It will work out.

  • There are a lot of really smart people trying to figure this out. No matter what, reaffirm you are in this together.

  • Graduation: Will there be a graduation ceremony? We don’t know. Will the government decide to hold the entire class of 2020 back. NO! Will our family celebrate you finishing high school, college? YES! Will it be what you dreamed and hope for and what it looks like on television. No. Will you get to celebrate with your friends? Maybe not in person. But there are ways to get a group together on social media or live stream or getting creative. Brainstorm ways to get creative in this social distancing time.

  • Will all my credits count? What about my AP exams? We do know the IB exams have all been cancelled for this year. The bottom-line is that no one really knows what the immediate future holds. But we do know that our teens are not alone. This is a state wide, nationwide issue and we just need to keep the lines of communication open. Be honest with your teens and answer the questions you can and be honest about the answers you don’t know at this time. They are depending on you.

2. Provide your youth with a routine, structure.

  • Research is clear that predictable routines are best for all people, especially kids. One thing that work and school provides most of us is predictable routine. Try to mimic this as much as you can at home.

  • Regular wake and sleep times are important. Does it have to be 7:30 a.m., maybe not, but certainly not 11 a.m. either. Get the day started with a routine: Shower, breakfast, brush teeth, grooming (hair, makeup, shave), etc..

  • Try to keep meal time consistent. Nourishment is important. Most districts are offering free food to all kids under 18, check your local district this may include breakfast, but certainly includes lunch. Some require pre-ordering.

3. Keep Education Going! For many teens, staying motivated to do school work without a grade or without a “reason” is difficult. But it can be vital for them to keep up with their peers. In Washington State, The Superintendent of Public Instruction is not expecting kids to return to school until the fall. He might be surprised, but it is not looking good. Many experts are trying to grasp what this means for our kids. Most believe kids will move on to the next grade...will your kid be ready? For example, if your child was taking Algebra 2 this year...they will have Calculus in the fall, will they be ready? There are some great resources out there to keep them going. Check with your local school district. Some resources have been provided below as well to get your started.

Sample Schedule


4. Boredom is not good for teens. A life without purpose can easily lead to poor choices and even lead to depression, substance use and abuse or other risky behaviors.


5. Get the body moving. We all know that stress is not good for the body. So imagine what all this anxiety is doing to us. It is important that you and your teen get your body in motion. Stress increases toxic chemicals in the body and honestly will lead to increased negative behaviors. Go for a walk, go on a family bike ride, do a 15 minute online Yoga Video, play WII sport, or simply dance to your favorite songs and giggle together. This exercise does not need to get you in shape, but needs to move your large muscles groups and burn all that negative energy. Teens change classes for a reason, it gets them up and moving, if only for a few minutes every hour.


6. Develop some family time together. Play games, read a novel together, or do a puzzle. Try to engage your teens in family time. Isolation is not good for any of us.


7. Finally, Chose your battles. Now is not the time to fight over that top you have never liked, or the hairstyle that just does not work for you. Too much screen time may not be your first choice, but it might be okay in this time of anxiety to allow a little more than usual.


In conclusion, remember these are hard times. We are all in this together and the more we can try and keep normal in our lives the better. Keep talking. Make your kids feel safe at home. These are difficult times. Keep breathing. Have your kids keep breathing. Talk. Spend time together.



Paulette Caswell, LICSW

is trained in trauma-informed, cognitive-behavioral therapy called AdoPTS, research-based trauma-focused therapy with Bethany Christian Services. Paulette has over 20 years of experience working with children impacted by trauma and who have lived in out of home care. Ms. Caswell utilizes cognitive-behavioral therapy with a family and community based approach, including psycho-education, motivational interviewing and mindfulness.



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