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May 19, 2022
10 Ways to Help Children and Teens Learn to Prioritize Their Mental Health

The pandemic has brought new and increased challenges for our families and has impacted the mental health of our children and teenagers. For many families, this continues today.

Recent news and government reports have brought attention to the prevalence and severity of the mental health issues we face, and new research from Economist Impact, commissioned by Cigna Corporation and its health services business, Evernorth, quantifies some of the mental health effects of the pandemic. For example, approximately 80% of working parents surveyed reported some form of impact on the mental health of their teenage children, including new or increased levels of anxiety, depression, behavioral issues, and problems with social interactions.

Mental Health Impacts of the Pandemic on Teens

New research by the Economist, commissioned by Cigna, has found that the increase in mental health issues among teens is having an impact on their parents at home and in the workplace.

View the research

Having conversations with our kids about their mental health can be tough, but it’s an important way to maximize and support their overall health and well-being. For inspiration on how to proceed, we asked Cigna Corporation employees to share what works for them. Continue reading for their ideas and suggestions.

Marcela Asquith, Technical Training Advisor at Accredo

I recently purchased a mother/daughter journal that has helped us communicate our big emotions with no judgment. This has truly helped us communicate and understand each other’s emotions in a more positive way.

Tomeka Casanova, Behavioral Health Product Lead at Cigna

I empower my teenage niece to use her words to communicate how and what she's feeling. I remind her it doesn't have to be a "perfect" articulation, but it's important that she uses her words to communicate.

I give the space for her to think through her thoughts, even if it means pausing for seconds to minutes as she does a mental run-through. I encourage the use of quiet time, disconnecting, the choice to ask for time needed to cool off, have an emotional moment, or just enjoy her own company without feeling the need to remain or stay in uncomfortable situations.

It's important for children to not feel pressured to have all of the answers. There's no way they can, because they simply do not have enough experience. Therefore, I encourage her to choose silence over acting out, yelling, or any unpleasant emotional interactions with others if she's having a hard-time communicating what she is feeling.

Stefan Cug, Software Engineering Lead Analyst at Express Scripts

I try to spend as much time as I can with my kids, always trying to show them that they are loved and valued. And we have some routine and rituals as a family we follow, like having meals together. I think that is the best prevention.

Holly El-Jammal, IT Project Management Advisor at Cigna

Try not to minimize teens' emotions. Teen stress (test scores, sports, friend drama) may seem minor in comparison to some adult issues (finances, jobs, parenting). However, their stress is very real and can be significant on the scale of their life experiences.

Alona Harman, Agile Product Owner Senior Director at Express Scripts

Being open and nonjudgmental when listening to my children (and my other family members) has been very helpful for all of us. Knowing they can talk to me about anything, and that nothing they tell me will make me think less of them, lets them be more communicative in their own way. I share when I have big feelings too. I tell them when I'm sad, or frustrated, or scared by the big things happening in the world, or when the tax bill comes. I let them see how I work through that, and my husband and I talk through things that affect our lives at the dinner table so it's a regular topic. We don't always agree, but we always talk about it.

Alissa Jones, Software Engineering Senior Advisor at Express Scripts

I let my kids take mental health days from school (one each quarter) just to let them know it's OK to take a personal day off just like I do, if I'm having a rough time. Since their job is school, it should be similar to my job, where it's encouraged to take time off (if you have it) for yourself.

Danielle Merena, RN, Technical Training Lead Analyst at Cigna

Don't be afraid to seek professional help and guidance – for you and your child. Counseling/therapy can be very impactful. Although it can be difficult to find the right therapist, don't let that stop you. You can contact your health insurer to find a provider in your network. And combine that information with a search on psychologytoday.com to get a lot of great info about providers. Start with your ZIP code and then narrow your search by ages they serve, types of therapy, issues, etc.

Elizabeth Ostroviak, Case Management Officer at Evernorth

Really be there ourselves or find someone our kids/teens trust to truly listen (screen free for all) and be present. Set aside time for family dinners at least three times a week, as research indicates that time as a family can be a definitive protective factor.

Susan Ruiz, Pharmacy Technician at Accredo

Listen – sometimes all a person needs is to be heard, really heard, no matter their age. Validate – they need to know that what they are feeling is OK and normal. Support – let them know that no matter what, you are going to be there for them. No judgment, just support, and a hug for comfort when they need it, no matter what time, day or night.

Dina Shourd, Pharmacy Product Director at Cigna

Talk with your teen about aspects of healthy and unhealthy romantic relationships. Make sure you understand the potential for and warning signs of teen dating violence. If your teen isn't sure whether their relationship is healthy, help them find a counselor or therapist for confidential discussions. Even the "strongest" teens can become victims of dating violence.