We should be on a long-awaited family safari holiday now; but instead of enjoying the expanse of the African plains, we are, like all of us, adapting to social distancing and staying at home. Life in isolation is a challenge for absolutely everyone, but how do you survive the lockdown with teenagers in the house?
Robbed of precious memories, for once maybe, teenagers everywhere can be forgiven for feeling more than a little sorry for themselves right now.
Friends and freedom – the two things which form the bedrock of their existence and which they have always taken for granted, have literally been removed overnight and the only option to them now is more home time.
Of course, we, like all parents in a similar situation get it. We have brought them up to learn how to be socially independent and just when they were confidently spreading their wings, they have had to revert to a world of restrictions, not experienced since their primary years.
The truth is though, it doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom. On a positive note it’s an opportunity for them to broaden their horizons; to explore new ways of entertaining themselves and connecting with friends, as well as indulging in some quality family time. Who knows – maybe our teenagers will come out of this better equipped for the challenges of the new world that lies ahead.
So if you are still struggling to find a new rhythm here’s my tips for surviving the lockdown with teenagers.
Maintaining a routine was espoused by many experts at the beginning as essential to a harmonious family life through lockdown. Enthused no doubt like many in the early days to get it right, I did try this, barging into blacked out rooms with more than my usual gusto, opening curtains and windows, encouraging them to get up, enjoy the day and the reply was always not surprisingly perhaps “What is the point?” “What are we getting up for exactly?”
Fast forward a couple of weeks and I have given up. Routine may work with toddlers and young kids but not this age group. There is one thing that is sure about this lockdown it’s tiring and exhausting on a whole other level and sticking to a strict routine, when you are so confined is not easy and to be honest mildly stressful.
That said, however, I have like many of my parenting peers, drawn a line at them slumbering past midday amidst concerns about their lack of outdoor time, plummeting Vitamin D levels and general mental wellbeing.
Share The Household Chores
As parents and particularly mothers I think we all subconsciously assume the role of a super parent in times of crisis, trying to do everything for everyone at the expense of ourselves. This is not a good idea for two reasons.
Firstly it is very easy when you do everything to feel suddenly overwhelmed by the physical stress of it all, which can of course impact on your own wellbeing, as my family found to their detriment last week when I had “a moment.” If you haven’t already, share out the chores or set-up a rota.
Secondly it is important when it comes to teenagers to avoid the temptation to do everything for them. They all need to acquire some basic life skills to take them through the secondary years to university and beyond, so what better time than now for them to fine tune some existing talents and pick up some new ones?
Cleanliness and hygiene is not something naturally associated with teenagers but it is top of everyone’s agenda right now, making it the perfect time to ensure they understand how to keep themselves as well as their surroundings clean as well as tidy.
It may seem ironic to suggest time together when there is very little other option right now but it is easy to fall out of sync with each other even in lockdown. For us our focal point as a family has always been dinner. It’s the time we connect – chat, laugh, debate and of course sometimes disagree.
So whilst in this grim new reality that is the lockdown we will forgo the adherence to a strict routine during the day and turn a blind eye to the fact that they may be enjoying breakfast whilst we eat lunch; dinner remains the non-negotiable point in the daily schedule for coming together and checking in with each other.
Add to this I have also introduced Dress For Dinner Friday to ensure that there is at least one night during the week when we get out of our loungers and quite simply make a personal effort with our appearance and pretend we are elsewhere.
Fun and isolation don’t necessarily go hand in hand, but it is still important to find some form of light relief in the situation, as demonstrated by the number of viral social media challenges keeping everyone entertained right now, like the toilet roll keepy uppies.
Fitness and exercise when movement is limited are of course paramount but in terms of shared interests this can be more challenging with teenagers. One thing confinement does teach you is that anything goes and nothing is too embarrassing if it passes some time and is fun. There are many posts doing the rounds at the moment about how to keep busy at home in isolation and ideas for activities specific to teens are in high demand. For us croquet, pat ball, skipping and hula hooping contests have proved a hit so far.
In terms of indoor activities, our familial passion for board games and movies has been reinvigorated with games of monopoly extending into several days and all of us taking turns to nominate a favourite film to watch – admittedly on occasion with varying degrees of success.
Whilst time together is good there is a certain joy in being alone too to pursue individual hobbies and interests. Obviously our options are more limited now for pursuing interests outside of the house but we have all expressed gratitude for the space our house offers to find a secluded corner and more importantly for the garden that previously we have so often taken for granted.
Whilst giving each other space is important, too much self isolation can be detrimental so it is important to make sure you get the balance right. Check in with each other regularly and make sure that everyone is ok. We all need to know that someone has our back and for teens that is normally their friends, so it is important as parents to be mindful of that – we can’t be a substitute for their friends but we can demonstrate that we care.
Keep Calm and Carry On is a well known catchphrase of the 20th century, but it certainly has some relevance now as we look down the barrel of many months of change in our lives.
Teenagers like any other age group are anxious by these unsettling times so it is important to remember when parenting not to transfer your own concerns on to them.
There is much to be said for the advice that absorbing the news once a day is enough and to not make the coronavirus and the stats the only topic of conversation
Relax The Social Media Rules
One thing I am sure all parents of teenagers are in agreement on right now is that this is absolutely not the time to get strict with social media, but rather to relax the rules.
Friendships aren’t ready-made, but created. Many teenagers will have spent valuable days and months, nurturing existing friendships and creating new ones. To suddenly be without that physical connection is tough so with social media being their only outlet they need to be allowed to indulge. In our house the PS4 and Nintendo have been dusted down; virtual monopoly, card games and house parties via the HouseParty App have taken off and then there is the joy of TikTok. It may be annoying that this all just happens as you are planning to turn in for the night but with normal sleep routines scuppered, we have found a new level of tolerance. The only challenge has been ensuring they don’t turn into Covid Vampires.
All in all this is not an easy time for any family and it requires huge flexibility as a parent to get it right, particularly with teenagers but it is possible, if somewhat tiring. In some kind of bizarre way I feel happier knowing what is going on than I did before, which of course will lead to a whole new challenge when the gates are opened and their freedom is restored once more.