Parents Can Help Utah Teens Stressed During COVID-19

Feb 19, 2021, 6:40 PM | Updated: 8:00 pm

WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah – For many students, school can be a refuge, a place of fun and learning but the pandemic has changed that. All week, NBC has focused coverage on Kids Under Pressure and how COVID-19 has impacted them.

KSL-TV reached out to Utah students and found they are stressed out, but parents can help.

At Granger High School in West Valley City, a heart mural on the window was made of hundreds of sticky-note messages like, “Moving forward, bring joy,” and “You got this.”

Words are not just talk there, but a lifeline.

“We’re the largest high school and we’re the most diverse high school,” said principal David Dunn.

Encouragement is important for students like Arleth Antonio, a senior who is on the wrestling team at Granger.

“It’s been a bumpy road for me,” Antonio said.

She said she’s been wrestling with very real problems, like mental health.

Granger High student Arleth Antonio is stressed with mental wellness and family finances during the pandemic. (KSL TV)

“I was really depressed for some time,” she said.

She was also worried about finances.

“We haven’t been financially well. My mom and my dad had to sit back for a while, because, unfortunately, they had COVID,” Antonio said.

Dunn surveyed his students, finding in addition to being overwhelmed, they feel unmotivated or alone, and distracted by texting and Facebook during online learning.

“They feel overwhelmed,” he said. “Maybe we’re giving them too much. Maybe we’re expecting too much of them, just by giving them more and more assignments. That wasn’t the answer.”

Dunn created a task force to find ways to encourage students, like home visits to seniors. His efforts bridged the gap for 12th-graders, like Vivian Chau, who works up to 30 hours a week, along with hybrid AP classes, and college prep.

“Honestly, it sucks,” she said. “You’re not sure of anything. You don’t know if campuses are going to be open, stuff like that – and you know, you don’t know if you want to pay full tuition to just do class online.”

“These kids are growing up very fast,” said school counselor Brandy Oliver.

Along with academics, Oliver recommended parents ask about mental and physical health.

“Say, ‘How’s school going?’ Or, ‘Do you miss your friends? How can we make it so that you feel connected?’” she said.

Survey results showed students felt a weekly check-in would help.

“We need to have open, gentle conversations, conversations, whereas parents, we’re willing to ask, but I think, more importantly, we’re willing to listen,” said Dunn.

If they shut down, circle back later, experts recommended. Focus on strengthening your relationship, and keeping communication open.

“Why not as a parent say, ‘How are you? How are you handling these things?’”  Oliver said.

With baby steps, over time, it can get better.

Antonio saw the light in the form college scholarship offers.

“I got one from Nebraska, and I just barely got one from Dixie (State),” she said.

She said she is looking forward to a time when life isn’t so challenging.

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Parents Can Help Utah Teens Stressed During COVID-19