ANKARA

As the whole world goes through daily life under the shadow of the coronavirus pandemic, Anadolu Agency spoke with an adolescent therapist in Turkey about how it has affected young people.

Therapist Fatih Pulat said the pandemic had impacted both adolescents and their families psychologically.

Recalling that people act in similar patterns in both their early childhood and the pandemic process, as both don’t go outside if it is not necessary, Pulat said the pandemic process took people from all ages back to their early childhood period.

“If an adolescent’s early childhood was healthy, yes, the adolescent is bored, overwhelmed. But one day, he or she puts up with it, saying that it will end someday.”

“But adolescents who have experienced traumatic experiences in their early childhood can’t cope with this sense of emptiness. They look for something else not to feel that sense of emptiness.”

Pulat mentioned that digital tools such as mobile phones and computers or games are commonly used ways of escaping from that feeling, as “playing games suppresses our emotional system, amygdala, and the disturbing feelings fade away.”

“It would be a little unfair to base adolescents’ problems during the pandemic solely on the pandemic. In fact, we can say that the pandemic was just an occasion to expose existing problems,” he said.

Noting an increase in the number of adolescents seeking therapy during the pandemic, he said there has also been an increase in adolescents’ mental and behavioral problems.

Pulat said that losing interest in lessons, game and phone addiction, depression and eating disorders are the most frequent problems he has witnessed among his adolescent clients in this period.

Recalling that the most important problem among his patients was a lack of purpose in life, he said parents should be aware of the danger of focusing only on the symptoms rather than the main causes behind them.

“For example, if the child plays a lot of games, restricting this [or] taking the phone away from him or her is not a solution. When we ask why he or she needs to play games so much, the first step to a solution is taken,” said Pulat.

How to deal with pandemic?

“Adolescents are not very interested in the words that come out of the mouths of parents, but rather in gestures, the timbre of tones, body language. So often, it’s not hard for them to understand what their parents are feeling.”

For this, he advised parents to regulate their own lives before trying to fix their adolescents’ lives as their children would observe and copy their reactions towards everything, including the pandemic.

“If parents themselves can comfortably go through this pandemic period, there will be fewer problems in adolescents. But if parents are constantly anxious, scared, and obsessive, then the effects of the pandemic hit adolescents more,” he said.

However, while not being too stressed over the pandemic, “life has a reality, and to raise adolescents by isolating them from this reality, conveying that the outside is only good, will cause them to be unable to create their own defense systems,” said Pulat.

“Just as even a simple appliance in the house breaks down and we call the service and leave the work to a specialist, it is important to get support from a therapist who is an expert on the subject rather than letting things slide in the hope that the problems experienced by our adolescents will eventually not exist anymore.

“If there is a problem in an adolescent, it is essential and more important than the adolescent going to therapy that the parents who make it problematic receive support before an adolescent. If a problem affects your adolescent’s daily life, affects his or her functionality, relationships, feelings, it is important to get support,” said Pulat.

“Childhood and adolescence are actually periods of significant opportunities to eliminate the problems of a child. Families should appreciate this last exit before the bridge,” he added, referring to a Turkish idiom meaning “the last opportunity.”

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