Missing their friends, and missing out on milestones such as graduation or moving onto campus for freshman year, are just some of the sources of anxiety Canadian youth are experiencing during the novel coronavirus crisis, according to a recent nationwide study.
But despite the higher number of coronavirus cases in the province, Quebec teens seem better off than their peers living elsewhere in Canada, according to Jack Jedwab, President and CEO of Association for Canadian Studies.
“That could have something to do with the pounding away at the message that ‘ça va bien aller’ — it’s all going to be okay” Jedwab explained.
The study was conducted among teens aged 12-19 years old and received 1,200 responses from across the country.
It was led by the Association for Canadian Studies’ COVID-19 Social Impact Network, in partnership with Experiences Canada and the Vanier Institute of the Family.
The study looked into different aspects of youths’ experience during the crisis, including who is most afraid of catching the virus.
Findings show that the most vulnerable groups have an increased fear of getting sick with COVID-19.
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In that regard, teens with disabilities are experiencing significantly higher levels of anxiety than any other youth.
Immigrants and visible minorities are also afraid of getting sick but their fear levels increase when thinking of loved ones being affected.
Those fears are impacting their sleep and mental health, according to the study.
Among those who felt the most afraid of catching the disease, 74 per cent said they had a hard time sleeping.
“We know that this is a generation that already has elevated anxiety and stress,” said Deborah Morrison, president and CEO of Experiences Canada.
The biggest concern for children and youth in this time, says Morrison, is that unlike any other time, parents have not gone through an experience like this and can’t tell their children, that things are going to be okay.
“They can’t tell them that. We’re all going through this together,” Morrison said.
Teens also felt anxiety surrounding the school work they do at home, especially those in upper grades. Only half of those in Grade 12 or CEGEP reported being confident.
Jedwab says the findings will be useful in giving policymakers insight into what is most important to focus on in providing help.
“They will give some guidance in regards to the need to think carefully as to what strategies need to be put in place,” said Jedwab.
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The importance of communication in the family was highlighted by the findings. Up to 40 per cent of the teens said they got their information from their parents.
“That will provide us with an enormous safety net for a lot of these kids. The ones we really have to worry about are those who don’t have that strength in family or whose parents are really struggling,” said Nora Spinks, chief executive officer of the Vanier Family Institute in Ontario.
Spinks recommends parents keep the lines of communication open and build it into their daily routine.
“Ask questions, share your own ambiguity around your feelings — without terrifying them — but letting them know some days you’re having a good time, some days [you’re not],” Spinks said.
“Ask questions such as, ‘How are you feeling? What are you most afraid about?’”
The study also shows that while there are fears among youth, there are also positive feelings.
“A lot of youth are talking about this being a time of generosity and gratitude,” explained Spinks.
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