Amid ongoing Covid-19 restrictions, the unique frustrations and struggles faced by teenagers and their parents during lockdown are being overlooked, writes Jack Pickard.
“Hang on, my daughter has just started eating the dog’s food!” – before the coronavirus, the weekly board meeting normally ended with AOB and setting the next agenda, not retrieving your offspring from the kitchen floor. This is a typical COVID-era example used to highlight work-life struggles as we’re forced to work, study and parent at home. And parenting during lockdown is certainly not easy. But this applies to all ages of children.
Many are under the impression that teens are easier to look after during pandemic-enforced restrictions as they are more independent. Any attention or advice has been for parents with younger children, leaving the exasperated parents of teenagers forgotten and unsupported. But with so many parents of teens struggling during lockdown, this should not be the case. Teenagers, like young children, bring their own set of problems, all of which are magnified when forced to stay inside.
Take homeschooling and maths problems. Teens’ maths isn’t just simple addition and subtraction any more. Questions like ‘x2 + 4x -2 = 0, find x’ leave you not only struggling to understand the question in the first place, never mind answering it, but also wondering how someone ever lost x in the first place, given there’s one right under that small 2 and another next to the 4!
Being unable to help out in these subjects not only inhibits teenagers from being able to learn but it is also very demotivating for them, making it hard to encourage them to keep working. The result: raised voices, slammed doors and dirty looks for the rest of the day.
Another struggle for parents is trying to fill the void left by a year of cancelled activities that teens had been looking forward to so much. The advice is to find something new and interesting to do – join an online reading group perhaps, something you’d never thought of doing before lockdown. But for a teen, who was hoping to attend Leeds Fest, that just isn’t going to cut it. Not that reading groups aren’t incredibly exciting, but I reckon the atmosphere at a reading group might be slightly different to a festival. I don’t think I have ever managed to properly discuss the merits of the Great Gatsby as a commentary of the time period whilst being crushed in a mosh pit.
This excitement of freedom and friends is something that should be experienced away from parents. But with ongoing lockdown and restrictions on our social lives making this impossible – what are parents supposed to do to help their teens enjoy these times as best they can?
Freedom and friends also come with other more complicated problems. Unlike younger children, teenagers start to experience issues such as friends falling out and navigating the friendship groups that they belong to. Not quite Brexit, granted – they are not having to make complex political alliances or consider the impact that a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland will have on the economy. But even so, teens are more socially developed, and their issues are much more complicated than a younger child’s struggle to pull two Lego bricks apart (unless that was actually a part of the Brexit negotiations?).
All these things stirred together with a much-too-generous helping of hormones leave struggling parents with a rather unpleasant cocktail: a teenager with rapid mood swings and complicated problems that requires much more emotional energy than they did ten years ago.
While younger kids may demand more physically, teens require a different kind of patience, sympathy and understanding. Ignoring this and focussing attention mainly on parents with younger children alienates parents with teenagers, who are also having a hard time. As lockdowns look set to continue for the foreseeable future, let’s widen our focus to offer sympathy and support to parents and children of all ages.