Anxious Adolescents: Helping Teens Through the Ongoing Lockdown

A recent study by the Rox Institute found that nearly 80% of adolescents studied reported feeling lonelier since the lockdown began.

By Barrett White


We’ve heard of “FOMO” – the “fear of missing out.” These days however, while we’re all shut into our homes in order to protect our communities from the ongoing pandemic, the feeling itself is no longer a fear for most teens and adolescents. They’re actually missing out. Missing out on excursions to the mall, to house parties, to college orientations – the list goes on. While we live in a much more connected world with the advent of FaceTime, Zoom, and Skype, the person-to-person connection just can’t be replicated through a screen.

“Techniques to manage your anxiety include focusing on the things that are under our control, practicing mindfulness or meditation, avoiding substances that may worsen your anxiety such as alcohol, caffeine or excessive sugar, exercise and good sleep,” says Dr. Melanie Melville, Medical Director of Behavioral Health at Legacy. “However, if anxiety is paralyzing or affecting your quality of life, it may be time to seek a formal evaluation.”

What can parents and families do to help during a time like this?

  • Talk about it. Normalize and validate your teen’s emotions, giving them a space to discuss and vent judgment free. Recognize when changes in mood, sleep patterns or personality are more than “teenage attitude.”
  • Stay active together. Take walks while socially distancing, dance, or do yoga at home.
  • Acknowledge the responsibility. Why must you stay at home, and why it is important to you? Protecting grandparents, or an immunocompromised sibling. Give a personal purpose to the effort you are making.
  • Respect your teen’s privacy – but remain aware of online threats. Connecting online may be your teen’s best chance of keeping in touch with friends and family. Educate them about safe internet use.
  • Seek help from a professional. With global stay-at-home orders and social distancing measures, it has become more difficult to receive treatment, but Legacy has adapted to provide care to our patients while they are safe at home. Teletherapy and telepsychiatry are available to help manage symptoms of anxiety, depression, trauma, and other conditions that may have surfaced or worsened during the pandemic. Anxious teens and adolescents may also connect with the Crisis Text Line.
  • Replicate your pre-pandemic life. This is much easier for adults to accomplish than adolescents and teens, but implementing a structure that is as close to what they knew pre-pandemic as possible can help to create that sense of normalcy that we crave. Putting your teen or adolescent in charge of creating a schedule for themselves can give them a sense of control in this otherwise uncertain period. Try to maintain a routine with stable mealtimes, bed times and wake up times, as well as time away from screens.
  • Manage your anxiety. An anxious parent can lead to an anxious teen. Whether you’re aware of it or not, your own actions could be signaling to your child that they should be reacting to the pandemic in kind. Adolescents are perceptive – model a level-headed response to this ongoing lockdown. Leading by example, demonstrate to your adolescent or teen that they are also capable of protecting themselves and others from the virus by exhibiting proper precautions like distancing and hygiene. Give them the tools to see that they are not alone in this lockdown; that their efforts are part of a larger good and rather than lonely, are heroic.

This pandemic is tough for all of us, at all ages. Have empathy for our youth as they navigate this pandemic during a time of social maturation and transition. We will get through this and emerge on the other side of this enduring storm a stronger – and closer-knit – community.