Your Teen is Not Exaggerating: Social Distancing is Their Hell
Pretty much everyone’s world has been rocked by COVID-19. For teenagers, the effects of social isolation are not just annoying, they are dangerous.
A new study by Nationwide Children’s found that pediatric emergency department visits for mental health disorders have increased by 60% and visits for deliberate self-harm have increased by 329%. Of all the age categories, teenagers 15-17-years old showed the biggest increase (68%). In this blog we will explore possible reasons behind the increase, and how parents can help.
Teenagers are Wired for Social Interaction
It is widely known that one of the main goals of adolescents is independence. Teens start to slowly separate from their families and begin to create peer tribes (or squads, as they say). These peer tribes are necessary for “survival” of their teen years. Therefore, without interaction with them, you can imagine how scary it must feel. Sure, they have their parents, but they have already worked so hard for independence and leaning into their parents may feel like failure. They are now a wolfpack of one.
Several studies have shown just how important these tribes are. Social interactions outside of a teen’s family have been linked with decreased rates of anxiety and depression, emotion dysregulation, and low self esteem. Therefore, assume without social interaction, there’s a chance you find the reverse.
Compared to a child or an adult brain, teen’s brains seem to be more biologically hardwired for social interaction. In fact, MRIs have shown that merely being in the presence of a friend activates the reward centers of their brain. There is also an increase in the part of the brain that pays attention to social information and uses it to make decisions about behavior. They are literally lost without the feedback from their peers.
Because this time is particularly distressing for teens, we have also seen an increase in teens sneaking out to be with their friends. To reduce the dangers that come with sneaking out, as well as to increase the mental health of teens, below are some tips for parents.
Tips for Parents
Relax on technology Rules:
More than ever, a teen needs technology to connect with their peers. If they are continuing to get some sort of exercise and keep up with their responsibilities, there is no harm in laxing up on the rules. There are actually benefits!
Validate their Distress:
Let them know you realize how hard it must be for them. Refrain from belittling the importance of their peers
Expand Your Bubble (Safely):
If you are ready to expand your bubble, consider doing it with a family that also has teens.
Allow Safe Hangouts:
A teen is much more likely to not sneak out and to follow social distancing guidelines if they don’t feel like their friends are totally off limits. Have them meet a friend for a walk, have a picnic or drive to meet friends and chat from the trunks of their cars. Teens are creative – especially if they really want to do something!
We hope you found this post helpful and would love to hear more about how you are dealing with your teen and socialization! Message us on FaceBook or Instagram with your ideas, and we can add them.