Show your sons and daughters they are not alone.

The pandemic made socializing difficult for many people. Teenagers, in particular, may be struggling with the lack of contact they have with their friends. Online schooling and social distancing measures can make spending time with friends harder.

“Teenagers are working to develop independence and a sense of self, and their peers are a primary source of influence,” says Kyleigh Skedgell, PhD, psychologist at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. “Socializing shapes a teenager’s identity, gives them emotional support, helps reduce stress and can even boost the immune system.”

Parents can help teenagers receive the socialization they need, whether that be through social media, letters and phone calls, or socially distant in-person visits.

“You can even make the visits a surprise,” Dr. Skedgell says. “Ask your teen to run errands with you, then drive by their friend’s house or stop by the park.”

When to Seek Help

You know your child’s personality. If she’s naturally introverted and needs less socializing than some of his outgoing peers, that’s OK. However, if you notice your child’s behavior has changed since the pandemic, it may be a sign something is wrong. Isolating himself from activities and people he once enjoyed is a common symptom of depression. Other symptoms may include:

  • changes in eating or sleeping habits, such as loss of appetite or weight gain or sleep pattern changes
  • feelings of anger, boredom, hopelessness or sadness
  • lack of energy and motivation
  • negative thoughts or feelings that don’t go away
  • thoughts of self-harm or suicide

“My No. 1 recommendation is for parents to talk to their teenagers,” Dr. Skedgell says. “Don’t wait for challenges to arise. Talking about loneliness or depression won’t trigger those feelings. Your decision to ask might be an opportunity for your teen to open up.”

If you think your teen is struggling with mental illness, contact your child’s pediatrician or call 314.454.TEEN to speak with a behavioral health referral specialist.