Johns Hopkins experts say that adolescents and children are less likely to be at risk for severe COVID-19 symptoms, but the novel coronavirus has significantly disrupted the lives of adolescents in many other ways. Social distancing and the closure of schools can be especially challenging for them.
Director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Adolescent Health, Tamar Mendelson and an assistant scientist at the Bloomberg School of Public Health, Beth Marshall joined MBA/MPH student Samuel Volkin for discussing the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on adolescents, and what can parents do to help.
The greatest impacts originate from closures school, being in the house with family members, and not getting to see friends. Teenagers have different developmental needs as compared to adults. Adolescents are at the stage when they are very invested in social connections and in isolating from their parents. So, social distancing requirements for the novel coronavirus pandemic have an emotional impact on them than on adults. Depending on their developmental stage, some teenagers may face a hard time understanding what the pandemic really means and how it impacts the world.
The developmental tasks of adolescence include the development of empathy skills and a sense of identity. Both tasks happen through interactions with companions. Disconnection from social life will have some implications while returning to social settings. Schools are considerably more than only a place for giving educational content. Schools have started recognizing that students will return with not only educational difficulties as well as difficulties in their emotional and social skills.
It is significant for adolescents to know that COVID-19 generally does not affect them in the same way as it affects adults or older people. Guardians can reassure them that it is not probably going to make them seriously sick if they do not have underlying conditions that put them in danger. Simultaneously, communication is the key; they should know the importance of their part in keeping other people safe. Give solid strides about what they can do to shield the infection from influencing them and the individuals that they love. Make sure to use specific examples, like the importance of protecting the grandparents from getting sick.
Some adolescents are much more emotional, they think too emotionally while others are comparatively more logic-oriented. This will impact the kind of information being shared with them. It should also be considered that how adolescents develop empathy skills. Give them concrete strides they can also help their community. Explain why wearing a mask in public is important for others, or encourage them to write letters to health care staff and those fighting on the frontline to keep us safe.
For those having access to the internet and basic technology, youngsters can reach out to their friends through virtual platforms and stay in touch with them while maintaining distancing. Spending more time with a family also has developmental benefits. Families can begin doing things they might not have had the opportunity to do together, like playing table games after supper and beginning new family customs.
Youth development associations such as Harlem Lacrosse and Heart Smiles, both partners of the Hopkins Center for Adolescent Health, have truly ventured up to help youngsters during the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the fact that they are both in-person coaching programs, they have totally moved the entirety of their tutoring programming online and are in contact with their individuals more as often as possible as they used to be. Projects like these permit youngsters who had healthy outlets outside of schools such as support teams and youth development associations to maintain these associations during the pandemic.