Twelve Talks to
Have With Teens
Teens in Jefferson County report lots of worries about COVID-19– ranging from worries about the effects on our community and the health of family members, to getting the vaccine, wondering if prom or graduation will be canceled (again), if school will go remote (again) and what the “new normal” will look like.
In March of 2020, we asked Jeffco teens what worries them about COVID-19. Here’s what they said:
Not seeing friends
The stress of online schooling
Being stuck at home in quarantine
If prom, graduation, sports, etc., get canceled
Family members getting sick
A lack of jobs for teens
A lack of school meals
The collapse of the healthcare system
Facing racial discrimination
Not being able to travel to see family
Parents losing income
The impact on elections and voting outcomes
Widespread fear and how people are handling it
A lack of groceries and other supplies
Uncertainty about the future
As a parent or guardian, it can be hard to know how to talk with teens about COVID-19, particularly when we don’t feel as though we have all of the information ourselves. Nevertheless, engaging with our teens in dialogue is important for everyone’s well-being.
How are you feeling about going back to “normal?”
What do you see as your role in preventing the spread of the virus?
In 50 or 60 years, what do you think you’ll tell people about being a teen during the pandemic?
What has helped you cope with anxiety or stress with all the stuff you’ve dealt with because of COVID-19?
I might not know the answers, but I’m wondering what questions you have about getting the vaccine.
Despite everything we’ve been through, what’s one good thing about the last year?
What have you learned about yourself during the pandemic?
What are your thoughts about how schools are dealing with COVID-19?
- Send your teen articles or videos, then ask them what they thought about it. Here is one about vaccine safety and testing.
- Talk about coping. Mention that you are glad they are exercising, helping around the house, schoolwork, projects, keeping up with friends, calling relatives, etc., then follow up with a question.
- Always admit that you might not know the answers— and then talk about finding information from reputable sources.Even if I don’t know the answers, maybe we could do some research together. (See recommended resources, below).
Remember to talk about “hype” or “myths” versus real information related to vaccines, breakthrough cases and other topics that come up. (Also see recommended resources, below).
- Are you (still) validating how hard this is for your teen? Tell them directly that it’s legitimate to feel disappointed about missing out on time in high school, special events or other activities. They may feel a full range of emotions from worry and fear to frustration and anger.
- If you think they’d be open to it, share this coping strategies ideas page with your teen or complete it together. (Note: some ideas may need to be adapted to comply with current recommendations for social distancing.)
- Are your rules clear? If your teen is resisting taking recommended precautions and/or is arguing with you about following the rules, consider sharing this article from a University of Colorado professor about Flattening the Curve.
- Hold a family meeting to talk about the rules of the house as the pandemic continues and people are vaccinated.
- The Boundaries page has some ideas for navigating challenging conversations.
Recommended Resources for Accurate Information
- It’s very important to encourage everyone, including your teen, to access accurate, up-to-date information from reliable sources.
For up-to-date, reliable information and resources about COVID-19 in Colorado, visit the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment. This site includes concise fact sheets that can be printed out or shared via text.
For local information, visit Jefferson County Public Health.
Jeffco Public Schools’ COVID-19 response page includes information related to schools and school events
For information about the virus, go to:
Taking Action in your Community
Reduction of risk factors, and improvements in protective factors, can happen on multiple levels– within an individual, among friends and family, by adjusting systems in places like schools or businesses, and on the policy level for towns, counties or states. When improvements happen on all levels, our teens are most likely to thrive. Here are some policy and systems you and/or your teens might be able to influence:
- Do your part– and encourage others to by posting these messages on social media:
- Get vaccinated– and encourage others to get vaccinated, too.
- Wear a mask & watch your distance.
- Get a COVID-19 vaccine.
- Wash your hands often.
- Get tested & stay home if you’re sick.
- Be kind to your neighbors.
- Support local businesses.
- The amount and content of health education Jeffco students receive (including information about disease prevention) varies by school.
- Ask your school how they are implementing health education for all students. Ask if the school knows about Jeffco’s Health Education Policy and related resources. Also, encourage your teen to take a high school health education elective.
* Healthy Kids Colorado Survey 2019, Jefferson County data; **Jefferson County CTC Youth Town Hall data 2019, 2020 & 2021.
This resource is maintained with funding from a Coalitions Organizing For Prevention grant from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and a Drug Free Communities Grant from the Centers for Disease Control. The views, policies and opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the grant providers.