Social Isolation is Relapse

How the COVID-19 Pandemic is reeking havoc for some young adults

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This article is not about substance abuse, however if you want to read it with that lens that is entirely your choice.  My intention is to highlight how during a time of physical distancing and sheltering in place, we are unintentionally socially isolating.  For someone who struggled with social anxiety before, returning or remaining home can be on par with relapse.  We are on the cusp of witnessing thousands of young adults spiraling into a depressive state.

Prior to this pandemic, many of my clients would self-identify as having stalled out at home.  Either they never launched to begin with after high school, or they launched and then quickly returned to the nest.  My work involved helping the parents getting connected to their own resources to help their child launch (i.e. Parent Coaching or reading “How to Raise an Adult”) and supporting the young adult themselves to leave the nest.  This job is never easy, as the world outside of the comfort of a parent’s home can be a terrifying place.

For those who did get out, they may have found establishing a friend network in their new environment harder than anticipated.  They were paralyzed with fear regarding making friends, speaking with faculty, advocating for themselves, or just finding anything to be engaged with.  Even on a large, bustling campus, a young person can feel extremely alone.  Now, factor in COVID-19 and colleges shuttering doors and we’ve got the perfect storm for young people returning home. 

Parents are simultaneously grateful to have their children under their roof during this public health scare, but just as concerned of what’s to come after.  If your student was struggling socially and you were giving advice while they were on campus, now that they are home it is time to sit down and create a plan.  If they are not planning to return to school in the fall, make sure they have something else lined up.  If they don’t, you’ve just invited them back into the womb and it’s going to be extremely hard to help them relaunch again once the sheltering in place has lifted.

Normalize that we all are feeling socially isolated.  Do not let them stay in their room with the door closed 24/7 while you place meals outside their door to ensure they are fed.  Draw them out.  Link them up with a telehealth provider and be open to communicating the stress of uncertainty that we are all experiencing.  The expression “these are uncertain time” is an understatement.  Make sure your young adult is not alone, literally and figuratively.  If they are, this is equivalent to a relapse.  Get them reconnected. And help them see the light through this very dark time.

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For questions or comments contact Joanna at 970-218-9958 or via email.

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