Parenting: How to Talk to Teens About Loss and Uncertainty Due to COVID-19

How can I help a teenager cope with the life changes and risks caused by COVID-19? Montefiore's Chief of Child and Adolescent Psychology, Dr. Sandra Pimentel, discusses ways to help teens cope with uncertainty and loss due to COVID-19, as well as taking the risks of contracting or spreading the virus seriously.

Dr. Sandra Pimentel, Chief of Child and Adolescent Psychology, discussing how to talk to teens about COVID-19.
Transcript

A question I get asked a lot is how to talk to teens about COVID-19. And this is an important question because teenagers in particular have the capacity for deeper and broader discussions about these topics and they may be particularly susceptible to the social effects of COVID-19. They may be experiencing greater social isolation if they're cut off from their friends at school or on teams. They may be experiencing higher sense of boredom. We're hearing a lot about boredom from teenagers, especially because they're cut off from the activities that they are usually involved in. And these are especially challenging and so it's important for parents to try to connect and talk to teens about these topics and their experience of COVID-19. The first step of talking, like with any other situation, is listening. So asking teenager what are they worried about, how are they experiencing COVID-19. Listening for what might be important to them. What are the losses that they're feeling the most? Is it the absence of their friends or particular friends? Is it a sport of something that they're not getting to play or the team that they're not getting to hang out with after school? Are there particular worries with summer or summer activities that they may not be able to do? What type of uncertainty are they having the most difficulty tolerating? If you have a senior, in particular, they may be having an especially hard time with graduation and the ceremonies that tend to go with that, the senior experiences of a class graduating together. So listening for particular disappointments and losses there can be especially important to discuss. And although parents often want to fix these, some of these losses can't be fixed. And instead, it's important for parents to validate. Validate the feelings of sadness, disappointment, validate the anger and upset, and normalize that these feelings we're all experiencing to some extent and they're very real and teens are able to express those in a safe way. Teens are also capable of discussing some of the broader issues that are connected with COVID-19. We know a lot of teenagers who are talking about health disparities and how COVID-19 is disproportionately affecting communities of color. So we know that there are areas of altruism that teenagers are naturally drawn to. And so having those types of discussions too and how they may have impact even from home might also be worthwhile when talking to your teen. Another question parents have is how to talk to teenagers who may not be taking the guidelines around COVID-19 as seriously as they would like. An important starting point for this discussion is to understand that teenagers' brains are wired for risk. They are experiencing large growth of development, neuro-developmentally, that make them more likely to take risky behaviors and to feel more rewarded by those risky behaviors especially if they have to do with their peers. So that's a starting point for parents to understand. Their brain is pulling for some of this. Now, what are some strategies that parents can utilize in order to help? So, number one: Is there a way to make a personal connection for them? Helping them understand how their behaviors and how complying with some of the safety recommendations-- hand washing, physical distancing, staying home and isolating-- may help someone that's important to them. Is there an older person who's at higher risk for COVID-19 like a grandparent or someone they care about? Is there someone in the family who's a healthcare worker or an essential worker who's working throughout the COVID-19 crisis? So, is there a person that they can connect this to? And by engaging in those behaviors, they can be reminded that when they do that, they help that person. It may not be about them, or even if they do get sick themselves, they're right. They may not experience it as badly. But if they can hold that personal connection in mind, that may make it more likely that they're going to engage in the behavior. Number two: We may wanna appeal to a teen's broader sense of altruism. Research tells us that folks are much more likely to tolerate and want to do things like quarantining if they know they are appealing to the greater good or a public health concern. And teens are known for this too. So if we can appeal to a teenager's sense of altruism, how they are helping their community, how they're helping folks in their immediate local community as well as the Bronx, New York, in particular, so appealing to their sense of altruism and how them washing their hands, staying six feet away, they're helping in this broader and bigger way. Now, the third potential strategy has to do with finding areas of autonomy for the teen. A lot of what we are all experiencing, especially teenagers, is loss of control. There is so much that we can't control in this crisis and for teenagers in particular, being able to exercise some autonomy-- Parents are telling them to stay home, schools are telling them to stay home and learn, other parents are saying that they can't see their friends, and so much of their lives is being guided by rules imposed by others. So if there's a way to find areas of autonomy that teens can decide some things for themselves-- negotiating on a bedtime or some other activities that they can do or things that they can decide for the family-- that might be the opportunity for teenagers to exercise a form of autonomy and control that they are not otherwise experiencing.

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Mental Health and Coping


Mental Health Myths

Is it normal to think about COVID-19 all the time? Montefiore’s Chief Psychologist, Dr. Simon Rego, discusses why it's normal and whether to seek help.

Why am I always anxious? Do I have COVID-19? Will I lose my job? Montefiore’s Chief Psychologist, Dr. Simon Rego, explains how part of our brain works to keep us safe from something that could go wrong, and where and when to seek help for COVID-19 anxiety.

Why can’t I deal with my COVID-19 feelings on my own? Montefiore’s Chief Psychologist, Dr. Simon Rego, explains why it’s not weak to ask for help and why you might need assistance coping with COVID-19.

I’m supposed to be providing COVID-19 help, not asking for it. Montefiore’s Chief Psychologist, Dr. Simon Rego, discusses why healthcare workers should ask for and receive COVID-19 help.

Will people judge me for seeking help for my fears and anxieties about COVID-19? Montefiore’s Chief Psychologist, Dr. Simon Rego, explains ways to overcome concerns about being judged, and why seeking support to cope during this time is perfectly fine and necessary.

I'm just too busy with family and work. How can I find time for my COVID-19 feelings? Montefiore’s Chief Psychologist, Dr. Simon Rego, explains why finding time is important for our self-care, and recommends small things we can do to talk about our COVID-19 feelings that can fit into a busy schedule.

How can a therapist help me cope with COVID-19? Montefiore’s Chief Psychologist, Dr. Simon Rego, explains the tools a therapist can provide to help you handle COVID-19, what happens in a session and what to talk about.

I’ve had therapy, and I’m not sure how it can help with COVID-19? Montefiore’s Chief Psychologist, Dr. Simon Rego, explains what COVID-19 treatment looks like and which approach might work best. 

COVID-19 and Relationships

How can I best stay home with a partner? Montefiore’s Chief Psychologist, Dr. Simon Rego, discusses ways to work through the challenges of staying home with another person, as well as things to work on together.

How can I best stay home alone? Montefiore’s Chief Psychologist, Dr. Simon Rego, shares tools and techniques to help single people stay home, which can help with social isolation.

How do I juggle work, life and COVID-19? Montefiore’s Chief Psychologist, Dr. Simon Rego, discusses ways to maintain focus and a healthy work-life balance during the COVID-19 pandemic.

COVID-19 and Managing Feelings

How do I manage my feelings of anger toward COVID-19? Montefiore’s Chief Psychologist, Dr. Simon Rego, discusses why it's normal to have strong feelings about COVID-19, how to recognize triggers and things we can do to manage anger.

How do I deal with feeling lonely in isolation? Montefiore’s Chief Psychologist, Dr. Simon Rego, discusses managing feelings of isolation during COVID-19, and how to seek help.

How do I deal with my anxiety about finances affected by COVID-19? Montefiore’s Chief Psychologist, Dr. Simon Rego, explains how to manage financial fears during the crisis.

How can I manage addictive behaviors during COVID-19? Montefiore’s Chief Psychologist, Dr. Simon Rego, explains how to avoid negative coping methods during the crisis.

How do I deal with the human toll from COVID-19 and the impact on life as we know it? Montefiore’s Chief Psychologist, Dr. Simon Rego, explains how to cope with the loss of normalcy and changes in our lives as a result of the crisis.

Anxiety Busters

Taking a deep breath can help reduce anxiety. Montefiore’s Supervising Psychologist and Assistant Director of the Trauma-Informed Care Program, Dr. Paul Bulman, demonstrates ways to breathe better when feeling anxious about COVID-19.

Balancing negative thinking with positivity can help reduce anxiety about COVID-19. Montefiore’s Supervising Psychologist and Assistant Director of the Trauma-Informed Care Program, Dr. Paul Bulman, shows how making a gratitude list can spark positive thinking.

Focusing on the moment can help reduce COVID-19 anxiety. Montefiore’s Supervising Psychologist and Assistant Director of the Trauma-Informed Care Program, Dr. Paul Bulman, shares techniques for staying present during this difficult time.

Negative thoughts can create more anxiety. Montefiore’s Supervising Psychologist and Assistant Director of the Trauma-Informed Care Program, Dr. Paul Bulman, provides techniques to combat negative thinking during the COVID-19 crisis, including knowing the triggers and the 3 questions to ask.

Getting a good night's sleep can help combat anxiety caused by the COVID-19 crisis. Montefiore’s Supervising Psychologist and Assistant Director of the Trauma-Informed Care Program, Dr. Paul Bulman, provides techniques for sleeping better during the pandemic.

Keeping your body active is a great way to relieve anxiety and can boost your immune system. Montefiore’s Supervising Psychologist and Assistant Director of the Trauma-Informed Care Program, Dr. Paul Bulman, provides ways to work in regular exercise during the COVID-19 pandemic for physical and mental health.

Essential Workers and COVID-19

Montefiore’s Supervising Psychologist and Director of the Trauma-Informed Care Program, Dr. Dana Crawford, explains how essential workers and their families can handle concerns arising from COVID-19 work.

Montefiore’s Supervising Psychologist and Director of the Trauma-Informed Care Program, Dr. Dana Crawford, explains how the family and close friends of essential workers can navigate concerns arising from their loved ones’ COVID-19 work.

As an essential worker, how can I best handle conversations about COVID-19 with my loved ones? Montefiore’s Supervising Psychologist and Director of the Trauma-Informed Care Program, Dr. Dana Crawford gives essential workers tips on how to have conversations about COVID-19 with loved ones.

If my loved one is an essential worker, how can I best handle sharing my concerns about COVID-19? Montefiore’s Supervising Psychologist and Director of the Trauma-Informed Care Program, Dr. Dana Crawford offers advice on how to communicate about COVID-19 with loved ones who are essential workers.

Surviving COVID-19

What's it like to survive COVID-19? Montefiore’s Dr. Miguelina Germán, Psychologist and Director of Pediatric Behavioral Health Services, shares her personal experience with COVID-19. She talks about quarantining with her family in a two-bedroom apartment, coping with her fiancé contracting COVID-19, asking friends for help and emotionally working through her diagnosis. She also offers advice based on what she learned during this experience.

What happens after recovering from COVID-19? Montefiore’s Dr. Miguelina Germán, Psychologist and Director of Pediatric Behavioral Health Services, shares her personal experience after recovering from COVID-19, and what she learned about symptoms coming back and the importance of self-care after recovery.

Who to tell about your positive COVID-19 diagnosis and when? Montefiore’s Dr. Miguelina Germán, Psychologist and Director of Pediatric Behavioral Health Services, discusses life living with COVID-19, how she decided which family and friends to contact and when was the right time to tell them about her positive diagnosis.

Parenting During COVID-19

How can parents develop resilience in children during the era of COVID-19? Montefiore's Chief of Child and Adolescent Psychology, Dr. Sandra Pimentel, shares some ways parents can create family resiliency, and discusses the value of structure, social support, stress release, focusing on the positive and practicing gratitude.

How can parents talk about what's happening as a result of COVID-19 with kids of all ages? Montefiore's Chief of Child and Adolescent Psychology, Dr. Sandra Pimentel, discusses how to help kids understand COVID-19 using techniques to encourage talking about their feelings resulting from the life changes and uncertainty they're experiencing because of the pandemic, and how parents can model coping methods to help kids make more sense of their world.

How can I help a teenager cope with the life changes and risks caused by COVID-19? Montefiore's Chief of Child and Adolescent Psychology, Dr. Sandra Pimentel, discusses ways to help teens cope with uncertainty and loss due to COVID-19, as well as taking the risks of contracting or spreading the virus seriously.

How can parents manage both their stress and the stress inflicted on their families by COVID-19? Montefiore's Chief of Child and Adolescent Psychology, Dr. Sandra Pimentel, shares techniques to help cope and manage stress in these unprecedented times.

What are red flags I should look for to know if my child needs help? Dr. Sandra Pimentel, Montefiore’s Chief Child and Adolescent Psychologist, shares advice for parents of children struggling during COVID-19 and explains what therapy looks like for children, including virtual health options.

How should parents talk to their kids about the next phase of COVID-19? Dr. Sandra Pimentel, Montefiore’s Chief Child and Adolescent Psychologist, explains what’s important to communicate to children about the ongoing pandemic and how parents can create resiliency in their children by reflecting with them on what has happened, continuing to engage them in safe behaviors and including them in planning ahead. Dr. Pimentel also shares how to handle a child’s worry about the uncertainty of school by validating their feelings and focusing on what we can control.

Addiction During the Era of COVID-19

How is behavioral addiction being affected and manifested during the era of COVID-19? Montefiore’s Director of Addiction Consultation Service, Dr. Howard Forman, describes the impact the pandemic has on those with behavioral addiction, why many people are developing behavioral addiction, and shares what help is available.

How can a person get help for behavioral addiction during the era of COVID-19? Montefiore’s Director of Addiction Consultation Service, Dr. Howard Forman, shares ways to seek help for behavioral addictions that have increased or begun during the era of COVID-19.

How is internet addiction being affected and manifested during the era of COVID-19? Montefiore’s Director of Addiction Consultation Service, Dr. Howard Forman, describes the impact the pandemic has had on those with new or existing internet addictions, and offers guidance on available treatment options.

What are the treatment options for internet addiction during the era of COVID-19? Montefiore’s Director of Addiction Consultation Service, Dr. Howard Forman, shares available treatment options, including ways to receive treatment today from home.

How can the era of COVID-19 motivate recovery from addiction? Montefiore’s Director of Addiction Consultation Service, Dr. Howard Forman, describes how the pandemic has impacted those with existing addictions and describes how this time can be used to recover from addiction.

How can someone struggling with addiction get help during COVID-19? Montefiore’s Director of Addiction Consultation Service, Dr. Howard Forman, discusses how video visits and technology have transformed addiction care for the better during the pandemic, made care accessible to people in a whole new way, and how to get medical help if needed.

How can someone access medication for addiction recovery during the era of COVID-19? Montefiore’s Director of Addiction Consultation Service, Dr. Howard Forman, explains the ways Montefiore eased how people can have access to medication during the era of COVID-19 with more flexible personalized medication pick-up and delivery scheduled tailored to the individual.

What is gambling disorder and help during the era of COVID-19? Montefiore’s Director of Addiction Consultation Service, Dr. Howard Forman, explains what gambling disorder is, how lack of pleasure and activity during the era of Covid-19 created a new wave of gambling addiction for many people, and ways to get and seek help.

How has stress affected addiction during the era of COVID-19? Montefiore’s Addiction Psychiatry Program Director, Dr. Merrill Herman, explains how increased levels of anxiety and depression caused by the pandemic impact addiction, why people self-medicate, and how treatment can make a difference.

 

Pediatrics


MIS-C During the Era of COVID-19

What is Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome (MIS-C) in children, what to look for, and how is it treated? Dr. Nadine Choueiter, Montefiore’s Director of Noninvasive Imaging and Pediatric Cardiology, explains the symptoms of MIS-C, what is known so far about what causes it, and why follow-up care is important after children are discharged from the hospital.

 

Neurosurgery


The Brain and COVID-19

How does COVID-19 impact the brain? Montefiore’s Chief of Division of Cerebrovascular Neurosurgery and Surgical Director of the Montefiore Comprehensive Center for Stroke Care, Dr. David Altschul, explains the neurological symptoms associated with COVID-19 and details when they can occur, who is at risk of experiencing them, and their long-term impact.

What research is Montefiore-Einstein conducting to explore COVID-19’s impact on the brain? Montefiore’s Chief of Division of Cerebrovascular Neurosurgery and Surgical Director of the Montefiore Comprehensive Center for Stroke Care, Dr. David Altschul, shares the details of the ongoing, wide-ranging, multi-disciplinary biomarker analysis to determine who is at higher risk for serious reaction to COVID-19 as well as neurological complications.

Are those with pre-existing neurological conditions at greater risk of getting COVID-19? Montefiore’s Chief of Division of Cerebrovascular Neurosurgery and Surgical Director of the Montefiore Comprehensive Center for Stroke Care, Dr. David Altschul, clarifies the risk of contracting COVID-19 or experiencing recurring symptoms for those with pre-existing neurological conditions.

What symptoms from pre-existing neurological conditions could return with COVID-19? Montefiore’s Chief of Division of Cerebrovascular Neurosurgery and Surgical Director of the Montefiore Comprehensive Center for Stroke Care, Dr. David Altschul, gives examples of symptoms that can be triggered by COVID-19 and when to seek immediate care.

Montefiore’s Chief of Division of Cerebrovascular Neurosurgery and Surgical Director of the Montefiore Comprehensive Center for Stroke Care, Dr. David Altschul, discusses a range of options from the most advanced medical treatments for strokes and seizures to over-the-counter medications for minor neurological symptoms.

Stroke & COVID-19

Why are some COVID-19 patients having strokes? Montefiore’s Medical Director at the Comprehensive Center for Stroke Care, Dr. Charles Esenwa, explains why some COVID-19 patients experience strokes, who is most at risk and what causes these COVID-19-associated strokes.

If I am diagnosed with COVID-19, what can I do to help prevent a stroke? Montefiore’s Medical Director at the Comprehensive Center for Stroke Care, Dr. Charles Esenwa, explains why it’s important to keep taking existing medications while sick with COVID-19.

Dr. Charles Esenwa, Medical Director at Montefiore's Comprehensive Center for Stroke Care, shares the symptoms of a COVID-19-related stroke and what to do.

What is the recovery process for patients who have experienced COVID-19 related strokes? Montefiore’s Dr. Charles Esenwa, Medical Director at the Comprehensive Center for Stroke Care, describes how Montefiore treats the unique challenges of COVID-19 related strokes with a multi-disciplinary team to ensure the best possible chance for long-term recovery.

The Nervous System & COVID-19

How does COVID-19 impact the nervous system? Dr. Richard Zampolin, Neuroradiologist at Montefiore, explains how COVID-19 impacts the nervous system, its potential long-term effects and the research Montefiore is currently conducting in this area.

 

Heart


How does COVID-19 affect the heart? Montefiore’s Division of Cardiology Chief, Dr. Mario Garcia, discusses how COVID-19 affects the heart, what vascular conditions can be caused by COVID-19, who is most at risk, some forms of prevention and when it is important to seek medical care.

What research is Montefiore conducting on the impact COVID-19 has on the heart? Dr. Sandhya Murthy, Attending Cardiologist in Advanced Heart Failure and Transplant at Montefiore, describes what discoveries have been made during the pandemic, the patient groups impacted and how Montefiore’s ongoing research helps guide therapies for the best possible patient outcomes.

What pre-existing health conditions can lead to a higher risk for COVID-19 complications? Dr. Sandhya Murthy, Attending Cardiologist in Advanced Heart Failure and Transplant at Montefiore, describes the conditions that make a patient more vulnerable to severe illness and what precautions those with pre-existing health conditions should take, including heart-healthy habits like exercise and a low-sodium diet.

Trusted Information Resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The leading national public health institute of the United States
 

NY.gov

For the latest COVID-19 guidelines and information from New York State 

World Health Organization

UN agency responsible for international public health