It can happen
The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted everyone’s way of life. This health crisis has definitely had an impact on the health of our teens. How, then, can we better support them in such a specific context?
First, what is a health crisis? It is a sudden and emotional situation marked by complexity, uncertainity or ambiguity. It immerses institutions or organizations in a perilous context that compromises their ability to understand and respond adequately to events.
- Affects many people;
- Happens unexpectedly and abruptly;
- Has significant consequences;
- Is a complex situation;
- Creates uncertainty;
- Requires extraordinary measures.
Examples: floods, epidemics, train derailments within a community, multiple bereavements, etc.
How are teens responding?
Children and teens are often more vulnerable than adults. During a health crisis and for several months afterwards, they are at greater risk of developing psychological or adjustment problems.
The health measures that must be put in place to deal with the crisis can be quite difficult for some teens. At their age, they often want more freedom to have their own experiences, spend time with their friends, make their own decisions … and a health crisis can limit these options.
For the family as a whole, crisis situations can result in a loss of bearings. Everything around us changes. Everyday activities are disrupted. We may sometimes have the uncomfortable feeling that we have no control over what is happening. To feel powerless under the circumstances.
Times of crisis can bring up many emotions for everyone in the family: disbelief, anger, sadness, nervousness, worry. Some signs are more worrisome and need to be addressed: loss of motivation for activities or for going to school, reduced ability to concentrate, a drop in academic results.
Some people get through a crisis well; others need support when the situation causes more intense emotions or distress.
Crisis-related distress can take different forms:
- Decreased self-esteem
- Problems sleeping or extreme fatigue
- Withdrawal and isolation
- Loss of appetite or always feeling hungry
- Substance use
- Thinking about death or having suicidal thoughts
As a parent, you shouldn’t hesitate to seek help if you are concerned. See the “Resources and tools” section to find a resource.
If your child is having suicidal thoughts, call 1 866 APPELLE (277-3553) (services available in English).
How can I help my teen to feel better?
- Normalize your teen’s reactions: they are not the only one feeling this way.
- Talk to your teen: ask sincerely how they are doing and take an interest in what they are experiencing.
- Learn to recognize the symptoms of anxiety/depression (irritability, difficulty sleeping, sadness, isolation, loss of interest in activities once enjoyed, hopelessness, fatigue).
- Find solutions together.
- Suggest tools to help reduce distress (see “Resources and tools” section) and consult a health professional or school counsellor as needed.
- Provide a sense of hope. Life goes on. Dream about the future and set realistic goals to achieve.
- Encourage making an effort and a positive attitude towards challenges.
- Regain a sense of control over life: change or adapt where possible based on their needs, make choices and decisions that are beneficial, while considering the situation. Let go of what is beyond your control.
- Return to normal life as much as possible: go back to school, be with friends and family, participate in social, creative and sports activities (as permitted).
- Continue to enforce house rules, adjusting them to the situation as needed.
- Maintain a routine, good lifestyle habits (sleep, diet, physical activity, limit alcohol and other drug consumption, take time to breathe).
- Find small moments of joy every day.
- Listen as much as possible to everyone’s needs and find solutions that suit the situation.
- Ensure that everyone has some privacy.
Being physically active and regularly participating in at least one activity that you enjoy are concrete ways to keep your spirits up!
As a parent, don’t forget to take care of yourself too: when you feel well, you are in a better position to support and guide your teen.
- Crisis situations can happen and it’s normal for teens and the whole family to be affected a little or a lot.
- By focusing on what we can control and what is truly important and still there despite the crisis, we can find ways to feel better.
- Try to get back into as normal a routine as possible, it’s comforting and gives a sense of purpose.
- Don’t hesitate to consult or seek help if needed.
Resources and practical tools
Resources for everyone
- The staff at your teen’s school is there for you, don’t hesitate to ask for help if needed!
- Psychosocial services at your CLSC
- Info-social 811: to find an organization in your community
- Centre de crise et de prévention du suicide: 1 866 APPELLE (services available in English)
Tools for everyone
- Mouvement Santé Mentale Québec (French only)
- • Several tools are available online for managing stress and anxiety, for both teens and adults:
- Centre for Studies on Human Stress website: self-help clips “Stress N’Go”
- Fondation jeunes en tête website whose mission is to prevent psychological distress in youth aged 11 to 18 in Quebec.(English available)
- L’Ordre des psychologues du Québec website (English available) and the page “Conseils aux ados pour traverser la crise de la COVID-19″ (French only) (Psst! Parents can find tips here too!)
Resources for parents
- Ligne Parents 24/7 (telephone, chat – services available in English) : 1 800 361-5085
- Le carnet des parents (French only)
- Helping teens cope with the impacts of and restrictions related to COVID-19- fact sheet, www.cpa.ca
- Conseils aux parents en période de confinement (French only)
Resources for teens 12 and older
- Tel-Jeunes 24/7 (telephone, text, chat – services available in English) : 1 800 263-2266
- Youth clinic at your CLSC
Tools for teens 12 and older
- Pamphlet : On protège aussi la santé mentale de nos jeunes ! (French only)
- Adap.t program (English and French)
- On parle de santé mentale : video clips on various themes related to teens’ mental health (services available in English)
- La pleine conscience
- Trucs et astuces pour faciliter le confinement de votre adolescent (French only)
Last updated: October 2021