Local experts share the latest information and resources on all things mental health.
Posted: February 18, 2021 by Caroline Kinsley
Hey teenagers! I'm speaking to you. Remember that time your older siblings, parents, friends, or even the media led you to believe that your teenage years were going to be a time of adventure and wonder as you grow up and move toward adulthood? There would be events, parties, celebrations, trips, and many more gatherings. It was going to be sweet. Even if your expectations of your teenage years did not live up to Ferris Bueller's Day Off, there were certainly other parts that you were probably looking forward to..
But wait a minute! In the midst of your expectations a huge wrench showed up. No one prepared you for COVID-19. No one prepared you to change your course. So before we continue, I want to invite you to take a moment to ask yourself a few questions:
How's it all going?
During a time when you're unable to go anywhere how are you navigating school, friends, family?
How does it feel that you’re asked to put aside some of your expectations, promises, and hopes?
What emotions and thoughts show up when you think about this sudden change.
Are you thriving right now? If so, that's amazing! Your adaptability during times of uncertainty and unexpected change is such a strength. I don’t know you personally but your ability to take on this challenge will really be a strength in your life. And you’re not alone. There are many teens making meaning out of the pandemic. Your creativity and drive is something to be proud of and it inspires many.
If it’s not going super great, I hear ya.
Collectively, we’re grieving a lot this year. It's not easy to let go of what you hoped would be happening this past year. Perhaps you’ve lost family, friends, or community members to COVID-19. You’ve lost out on time with your friends, and getting to play on your sports team. Social events like sports games/ competitions, homecomings, proms, spring break, graduation, and going off to college have suddenly been put on pause or are gone. Missing out on these milestones is having an impact on you and that matters.
Another layer on top of this cake is as a young person, without a compromised immune system, you're expected to give a lot right now. The adults in your life such as your parents, guardians, teachers, mentors, coaches are asking you to give up your memories for them. Maybe they’ve told you in one way or another that by not putting yourself out there, on your team, in school, at an event, you’re saving someone else's life. There has been so much emphasis on the importance of social distancing.
It's okay if that doesn't always feel motivating, and right now, it may not. It’s most likely because your brain may not function in that way just yet. Don’t worry, that's okay and it’s not your fault. But even if it doesn’t feel relevant to you right now, in the big picture, giving up your freedom for others' health is oh so worth it.
Just so you know many adults are giving up a lot right now, too. You just might not see what people are giving up because you’re home. Take a look country wide of all the restrictions state-to-state enforced for our safety.
I'm here to remind you not to lose hope yet. Why? What you don't get to do now can be motivation to make it happen later. It can inspire you to get back to the adventure in adulthood. So much of what we’re going through is giving you serious adulthood points. For example as you look at some parts of your life you may realize what adult actions you’ve taken. Have you transitioned almost everything in your life online? Are you looking for safe ways to hang out with your friends? Are you rethinking your next step forward? Have you put your next step forward on pause?
These are skills that everyone is figuring out right now. Your way of navigating your life safely is your way of embracing your transition into adulthood. While there are disruptions there are also solutions. Navigating these disruptions and solutions is the bread and butter of what it's about. Learning how to take what is asked of you (social distancing) and still find ways to live your life in a way that is helpful, kind, and good for you and your community (mask wearing, outdoor meetings, zooming) is exactly what we’re all called to do. This is stepping into adulthood.
I also want to remind you that even though the world around you may not think of your experiences as necessary, your experiences matter. After all you hold the vision of the future.
When all the adults have moved on past their responsibilities in leadership you will be the one to fill the seat. You will remember what went well right now and what you would have done differently. Perhaps that would be a motivating drive for you as you become a leader. It’s important that you know your experiences now can shape your future later.
Be kind to yourself. Remember that you’re missing out on some things now and it’s okay to miss them. Once you’ve allowed space for your feelings remember this is not forever. In time, you will be able to celebrate, gather, and adventure in the way you really missed out on right now. Be intentional. Let yourself be aware of what you're missing right now and plan for those things in your future. Canceling the stuff you're missing now will hopefully allow you to connect once this pandemic is understood, managed, and controlled. And remember:
You are important.
You are needed.
Your experiences matter.
Your emotions matter.
I put a few resources below as inspiration for activities you’re able to do during COVID and ways to plan for the future you look forward to.
What can you still do during COVID
Express yourself and your experience online through a blog post & with an online community, check out connecting as a SOVA ambassador.
As much of this article talks about...your mental health is important and deserves your attention. Read more here how you can protect your mental health during COVID-19.
Mental Health has reached the app world, apps and digital health resources reviewed by experts. What will your parents/ guardians say when you tell them that hopping on your phone can actually be healthy?
Have you heard of Car Talking? A creative way to safely see your friends in person.
Perhaps your adults in your life need help understanding your experience. If so, try sharing this article: Supporting Teenagers During Coronavirus