While the COVID-19 pandemic has affected nearly all of us, the adverse effects experienced by children may be the ones with the direst consequences, primarily because those are the ones that are most likely to be overlooked and unaddressed.
Media has covered the economic and other hardships that have impacted adults; however, as a therapist, I have seen how the pandemic is causing a shifting social epidemic among adolescents and teens, causing increased depression, bullying, suicidal thoughts, and anxiety. New stressors such as boredom, feeling overwhelmed, and increased online activity are contributors.
COVID-19 Bullying Trends
Over the last several months, the risk factors for bullying have begun to shift:
Cyberbullying is becoming more prevalent as teens are spending more time online. The devices used for school and entertainment can also become the mediums used for bullying.
Some kids in a friend group may not be allowed to partake in the same social activity or get together with the same group of people due to COVID concerns. Different opinions on acceptable social engagement can trigger relational bullying. It’s important to try not to judge others and respect others’ decisions.
Different mask views can lead to bullying. Bullying can happen when someone repeatedly tries to make another person feel bad or pressured to conform. Some anti-mask wearers may bully those who wear a mask and vice versa.
How Parents Can Help Address Bullying and Other Concerns with Their Kids
This is a hard time for everyone. Here are some ways that parents can help kids who are struggling with bullying and other issues:
Use ‘The Three E’s
The Three E’s (Empathy, Empowerment, and Engagement) is a framework that I use in my therapy practice and that I recommend for all parents to use now. The Three E’s helps kids and teens who are struggling with bullying and other issues and can help parents and their kids reconnect, grow stronger bonds, develop open communication, and gain more understanding and respect for one another.
Teach Self Compassion
Self-compassion is an important concept that we don’t hear a lot about, and one that most of us don’t practice enough. Kids need to acknowledge when they’re feeling angry, sad, or worried. By teaching self-compassion, parents can help change their kid’s perspective when something bad happens, so they don’t automatically blame themselves.
Remind your kids how they got through other hard times in their life. You can then discuss how your child can use similar coping strategies to get through this current situation or anything else that may cause distress in their life.
Establish a Daily Routine
Routines amid uncertainty are essential. You can help your child establish good habits by recognizing their needs for staying well. Having a color-coded chart on the wall with chores and activities that you’d like your child to incorporate into their day can be a great way to help you and them keep track of the things to be done.
How parents can help their kids stay emotionally healthy
Parents should try to find a balance. COVID-19 is a scary virus. But depression, anxiety, and bullying can be equally dangerous and are just as necessary to address.
Consider having your kids schedule physical, outdoor activities with others such as hiking, biking, or swimming.
Finally, try to understand your teen’s perspective. Your perspective is likely not to be the same as your teen’s. While you may think you know what your teen is feeling or going through, it’s best to ask versus assume.