Gaggle Speaks

Ideas, news, and advice for K-12 educators and administrators to help create safe learning environments.

Written by Charlotte Andrist
on May 11, 2020

Teens all over the world are currently grappling with the concept of social distancing and the way it’s affecting their lives. Many teens are experiencing negative mental health effects after extended time in isolation from peers, teachers, and family members. Whether you are a parent or an educator, here are some ways you can help guide students who are having a particularly hard time being uprooted from their daily routines and social lives.

Here are four ideas for teens who are struggling with social distancing:

  • Establish a Weekly Routine
    Creating a routine is one of the most important things you can do when you’re socially isolated for long periods of time. Wake up at roughly the same time each day, schedule activities and mealtimes, limit digital binging, and distinguish weekdays from weekends. Having a routine helps to maintain the last bits of normalcy in students’ lives and gives them specific things to look forward to each day.
  • Schedule Virtual Meetups With Family and Friends
    While texting, messaging, and calling friends and family on the phone are all important ways to stay in touch with others while social distancing, making the time to have a virtual, face-to-face meetup is a great way to stay connected with loved ones. Encourage teens to have virtual group chats with friends or family over a meal or to participate in a game or shared activity. Maintaining personal relationships—even if it’s done virtually—is more important now than ever before.
  • Cut Down on Social Media and News Consumption
    Even with everyone else stuck at home, it’s still possible for teens to feel like they’re missing out on something they see posted on social media. Whether it’s an only child wishing they had siblings to spend time with or an outdoor lover wishing they could go for a hike, seeing others experience something that is personally unattainable can have a negative effect on students’ mental well-being. Even more importantly, limiting news consumption can help minimize anxiety and fear during a pandemic. Setting boundaries to only check the news once or twice a day can change students’ perception of the amount of negativity in the world and give them more mental energy to focus on positive activities.
  • Take Up a Productive Hobby
    Being in social isolation is one of the best times to begin a new hobby, particularly a productive hobby that involves a quantifiable end product. Some great options for teens include gardening, knitting, writing a blog, creating art, or even following a specific exercise routine to stay fit for a school sport. Being able to monitor their progress and having a presentable end product can make students feel more accomplished as they pass the time alone.

Checking in with teens and giving them healthy options to cope with social distancing is critical to supporting positive mental health. For students who are struggling, it’s important to encourage optimism and productivity as social distancing measures persist. With these ideas, you can help teens make the most of a tough situation and give their mental well-being a much-needed boost.

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