Supporting Teen Mental Health through COVID

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In general, parents are concerned about their teen’s mental health. This can be greatly heightened through the COVID pandemic. Isolation, virtual learning, and lack of extracurricular activities have caused mental health challenges to teens. Many parents are thrown off guard when they find out their teen is struggling with suicidal thoughts, self-harm, and depression. They are seeing how COVID has impacted their social connections with their friends and even positive adult relationships from school.

Many parents feel lost on how to best support their teenager. The teen years are always a tricky time to navigate in general. To add COVID on top of that, it is no wonder parents are feeling lost! Not only are parents trying to work, run their household, they are also having to figure out how to keep their child engaged in school and healthy physically and mentally.

Connecting with your teen- the best medicine

Believe it or not, connecting with your teen is the most valuable thing parents can do. Many of the teens I’m seeing express a desire to be able to connect with their parents, yet they fear they may be rejected, judged, or criticized when opening themselves up and being vulnerable to their parents. 

Tips for Connecting during COVID

Listen with a full open heart
Leave the judgements and criticism to yourself and allow for open dialogue. Be curious and ask questions to learn more about your child, their interests and even engage with them in those interests.  If you have concerns, save that conversation for another time. Being present and listening to your child open up and be vulnerable is one of the greatest gifts you can give them. 

Dedicate a specific day of the week
(i.e., Friday or Saturday) for family movie night or game night. Cooking a meal together. 

Show your appreciation
Many teenagers are struggling with their own insecurities, struggling to fit in, feeling like they can’t do anything right. When your child accomplishes something, even if it is emptying the dishwasher, or getting the mail, showing them that you appreciate them and noticing their effort offers encouragement and lets your child know that you noticed them.


Ask your teen how they are doing, what they need from you, and what they feel the greatest impact they feel is from COVID-19. Know that if you or your teen is experiencing self harm, suicidal ideation, or other risky behaviors, this is a major red flag. Please take them to the closest emergency room if the threat is imminent. Please find a licensed therapist for yourself or your child as soon as possible.

Foundations Family Therapy is currently offering telehealth and in person visits in our Fuquay and Raleigh offices. We would love to help you connect with your teen and help your teen thrive during this season. Contact us for more details!

This article was taken from an interview between Sara Davison and therapist Allie Cataldi.

The Emotional Impact of COVID-19 On Teens

Emotional Impact of COVID-19 on teens

Parenting is hard, especially during these unprecedented times. We’ve all been asked to adjust, adapt, and change our lives which isn’t easy for anyone.

When our world changes suddenly, because of things like COVID-19, it is common to experience changes in our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Feelings of anxiety, fear, or worry are typical in stressful situations. And, even though we’ve been adapting to COVID-19 for 6 months, it’s still not easy.

Consider the stresses your teen may be experiencing. Social distancing and virtual learning can be really hard for teens who thrive on connection and socialization. Here are a few signs of stress to watch for and factors that may affect your teen’s emotional responses.

Watch Out For Unhealthy Eating or Sleeping Habits

Proper nutrition and sleep are an essential part of our overall wellness. Sleep is critical to our overall health and the effective functioning of our immune systems. It also impacts our emotional wellness and mental health, helping to beat back stress, depression, and anxiety.

Healthy routines may have flown out the window over the past few months but it’s never too late to get your family back on track. Try to establish flexible routines that provide structure…especially around eating and sleeping! Stock up on healthy foods and snacks. Avoid sugary drinks and high-fat foods.

Even though teens may be less receptive to having a strict “bedtime”, you can find creative ways to make sure your teen is getting enough sleep each night. Aim to do things at roughly the same time each day. That doesn’t mean your teen has to set the alarm for 6 a.m. just because they used to when school was open. But try to stick to a daily regular bedtime, wake time, and learning schedule.

Talk About Excessive Worry or Sadness

Anxiety and depression are on the rise across the country. Help your teen feel supported and heard by keeping the lines of communication open. They need to know they can come to you to talk about any concerns or worries. Take a few moments each day to talk with the teens in your life about how they are feeling and what may help them during this difficult time.

Remember to lead with compassion and understanding. Sometimes, the anger we express towards a person the person we are trying to support can be more reflective of our anger over feeling helpless. As parents, this response is particularly strong with our children. It’s easy to miscommunicate our anger and stress. Make sure you are taking care of yourself, too!

Help Them Concentrate

Whatever school looks like for the 2020-21 school year, it’s important to help your teen develop and grow emotionally and academically. Approach the school year with a positive outlook and new mindset even if it’s not what you hoped for. Remember, families across the country are finding ways to adjust to this new normal so you’re not alone.

Help your teen stay focused by creating routines and structure. Outline expectations and provide support in whatever way possible. Be available to communicate and help your teen with school work. Don’t be afraid to reach out for support when you need it! Many parents are wearing a teacher’s hat for the first time. Be sure to tap into all of your resources and find ways
to channel your frustration in healthy ways when times get tough.

Above all, try to remember your own experiences as an adolescent. When you were upset, what did you need most from your parents? If your teen is struggling, we can help! The teen counselors at Foundations Family
Therapy are experts at talking to teenagers. We like working with teenagers. That may sound strange to some parents, but as therapists, we truly believe in your teen and enjoy working with them.

Schedule an appointment today with our Fuquay Varina or Raleigh, NC therapists.

How To Talk To Your Teen About Mental Health

Group of four teen boys sitting on a wall. Family Counseling in Fuquay Varina, NC 27526 is available to Foundations Family Therapy in Raleigh, NC 27606. You can also get online therapy in North Carolina!

Teen depression and anxiety are on the rise.

In fact, The National Institute of Mental Health reports that about 3.2 million 12- to 17-year-olds have had at least one major depressive episode within the past 12 months. Many of these teens don’t get the help they need which can cause even more problems.

So how do you talk to your teen about counseling and mental health in a world full of stigma, peer pressure, and judgment?

Discuss Normal Emotions

The teen years are a time of great transition. You might find your son or
daughter exploring their independence and developing a framework for how they view the world. Teens begin to “try on” different values and question why they believe the things they believe. This is a time of great potential but also a time of great stress.

Talk to your children about changes. From hormones to social pressures, teens can experience a wide range of emotions each day. Talk to them to help normalize the conversation around how they’re feeling. Setting up an open plan for communication can provide the support and guidance they need.

Talk About Depression Symptoms

Did you know that about 20% of adolescents will experience depression by the time they are an adult? It’s important to seek treatment for depression as quickly as possible if you are concerned about your teenager. Your teen may feel more overwhelmed than they ever have before. In fact, they may begin to feel hopeless.

As teen counselors, our staff has seen the healing impact of depression treatment. We know your teenager can get better. Therefore, we can communicate this to your child and help them on their path to feeling better.

*It’s important to note that any reference to suicide should be taken seriously. If a teenager has referenced suicide, it is important to seek professional assistance. If you are worried about your child’s safety, please error on the side of taking them to the nearest Emergency Room for an evaluation. The National Suicide Hotline also offers a 24-hour suicide prevention hotline at 1-800-273-8255.

Respect Their Privacy

As parents, you want to know that your teenager is OK. On the other hand, teens might have a lot they don’t want you to know about. In fact, most teenagers have some secrets from their parents.

If your teen thinks that their therapist is going to report everything they say in counseling back to their parents, counseling will be ineffective. While our counselors understand your desire to know what’s going on, we also know that the best way to help your teen is to hold their secrets in confidence. Establishing trust is a solid foundation for any relationship.

Foundations Family Therapy offers a variety of mental health services at our Raleigh office. We want to help your entire family thrive.

3 Ways to Tackle Test Anxiety

Teen Counseling | Foundations Family Therapy | Raleigh, NC 27606

It’s crunch time during this busy time of year!

Many children are prepping for EOG’s and teens are prepping for finals plus end of the year projects. It can be a stressful time for both parents and their kids especially when test anxiety creeps in. Luckily, there are helpful strategies of what to do before taking a test and during the test to help with reducing this anxiety.

Before Taking A Test

Be prepared. It’s important to have gathered information about the test before it occurs. For example, is it multiple choice or essay format. It is also helpful to know will there be breaks, what can I have with me in the room, and will the test be timed. Knowing more information can help alleviate some anxiety about the upcoming test. Start to practice in the same format of the test related to practicing with multiple choice options by creating your own questions.

Understand your learning style. It can be helpful to know the best way in which you retain information. For example, do you learn better when you write the information down visually or when you hear the information orally. Use those same methods when you study. It can sometimes be helpful to study with other classmates taking the same test.

Practice self-care. Taking care of your physical health before a test can also increase confidence and focus when you are body is feeling better. For example, ensure you have a break from studying, get good sleep, and make healthy food choices. This will increase concentration needed for the test.

During The Test

Take 5 breathing technique. If you are feeling anxious during the test, use the ‘take 5’ breathing technique to concentrate on your breath and then return your focus. You take the index finger of one hand and trace your fingers of the other hand while breathing in as you rise to the top of your finger and breathing out as you follow your finger down. You can put your hand on your lap so others are unaware and you will be able to calm your mind and focus back on the test.

Self soothe. Try squeezing your fists or chewing gum. Engaging in the five senses can be an encouraging way to self-soothe. Squeezing your fists like you are squeezing the juice out of lemons or chewing gum (if allowed) is a way to connect more to your body. Also, wearing something comforting to you like a soft shirt or having a bracelet that you can touch can help with redirecting focus from anxiety to the task at hand.

Positive self-talk. During times when you are feeling stuck or unsure, having a mantra to tell yourself can be encouraging such as ‘I will try my best’ or ‘I can do this.’ Negative self-talk can distract from your focus and increase your anxiety levels. If you have scrap paper during your test, you can write your mantra at the top to remind you to have this focus throughout the test.

You did it! The test is complete. Make sure you take time to reward yourself for reaching your goal like getting some ice cream with a good friend.

Need additional strategies to prepare you to overcome test anxiety? Connect with me and we’ll create a personalized plan just for you.

Renee Pugh