Being in lockdown with a teenager is wreaking havoc on my mental health. I normally write a blog post in about 20 minutes but this one has been sitting in drafts for two weeks, now.
Because what is there to say?
I’m sad, and disappointed. I’m sad about the missed holidays and the cancelled hockey camps and theatre trips and meet-ups with friends. I miss going for a swim, and grabbing a coffee on the way home. I’m lonely, and worried about burdening Flea with too many adult conversations, and I am probably spending too much time cleaning. Also snacking.
Despite all of this I know that we’re fortunate. We aren’t ill, and our family and friends are healthy. I have a nice house and a garden, and a daughter and a mad dog. So obviously I know that the challenges of surviving lockdown with a teenager don’t amount to much compared to many, many others. But if you know a way to stop my heart sinking when I see a picture of a California beach, then let me know. Until then I accept that we’re all human, and we feel what we feel.
I’m trying to stay positive. Not in a, “this is really a blessing from the earth” sort of way because even I can see how crass that must sound to someone who has a loved one dying in hospital, when there’s nobody they love to hold their hand. But we’re staying positive in a, “doing something to help our mental health every day” sort of way. In case it’s helpful here are the things we’re doing to try and stay positive in lockdown.
Do Some Work Every Day
I do think that aimlessness is such a toxic emotion when it comes to mental health. For those of us with the luxury of time at home with nothing to do, it’s so important to achieve something constructive every day.
I’d find it so easy to fall into the habit of just snacking and surfing the Internet but I am making myself work every day. Some days it’s proper paid client work, other times it’s trawling through my blog archives and working on SEO. I’m working for friends, too – I helped one friend set up a new WordPress blog last week, and next week I’m writing a press release for another friend.
My teenager has no choice but to work. One of the upsides/downsides of a private school is they are determined to offer a 100% full timetable of lessons from 9am to 3pm. So Flea is keeping up with schoolwork, including revising for tests and doing homework.
If you haven’t yet downloaded Sims 4, what are you waiting for? It’s £8 right now, and it’s the best money you can spend for something that is totally an escape from reality. Or perhaps Animal Crossing is more your speed?
Video games aren’t usually my favourite pastime but things like Sims and Animal Crossing represent a total escape from reality. What could be more soothing than disappearing into a world you create and control, and achieving small tasks to proceed through the game? Honestly, I think it’s saving my sanity right now.
If you are in lockdown with a teenager, playing games together is also a really low-stress way of having fun together. We’re currently playing regular tournaments in Mario Kart, although I am mostly losing, to be honest.
Creativity looks different to different people, but we’ve been working on a few photography projects around the house.
Simple things like capturing a day in the life, or funny photos of the dog. We’ve bought cheap light sticks from Amazon and are learning how to do ‘light painting’ in the back garden at night.
At the moment I feel like my creativity has taken a real dip. I’m really struggling to write anything I’m happy with, so this is a way to be a little creative. If you have other things that work for you – sketching, cooking – then let me know in the comments!
I used to think my child had a small appetite, because we only spent evenings at home together. Now that I’m in lockdown with a teenager 24/7, it’s terrifying. She still won’t eat a proper dinner, but the snacking is incredible.
I stuff the cupboards with fruit and popcorn and biscuits and yoghurt and cheese and chocolate – and it’s like someone let a swarm of locusts in the house. Two days later, the fridge is empty again.
Still, it’s been nice to cook together, sometimes. We’ve made cookies and muffins, and last night we made a roast chicken dinner. Flea’s learning some life skills, and we’re getting to eat nice food. I believe this is what’s known as a win-win situation.
As an only child, I know that Flea must be really struggling with isolation from her friends. She will admit to missing school, so I know how bad it must be!
I’ve removed screen time controls from her phone and she’s using FaceTime and Snapchat and House Party to keep connected with people. Her Dad also takes a walk past our house twice a week, so she has a quick chat with him through the window.
Regular readers might know that we’re no longer in contact with half of the family, and I’m so conscious of not wanting to burden Flea with too many adult worries or frustrations. So I’m making the effort to chat with my parents 3 or 4 times a week, and also connecting with other friends on WhatsApp and text messages. At least once a week I also FaceTime a couple of good friends, and Jen will always give me some wisdom on living with teens!
Get a Little Fresh Air every Day
I’m finding I get increasingly anxious being outdoors. A trip to the shops is honestly just scary and depressing. My sleep is all over the place, so I am low-level tired a lot of time.
That said, I do make myself go out each day, with the dog, for a walk. Mostly it’s just the two of us, and I can lose myself in an audio book or some music. On days when it’s cloudy and I know it will be quiet, we take a short drive to the beach where we can truly be the only people in sight, and it’s probably the calmest I feel all week.
Flea is taking a daily bike ride, if she skips the dog walk. I think she likes that it gives her a bit of time to herself, and some independence. Those are hard things to lose at her age, I think.
We’re also making the most of the garden. Sitting in a chair reading, doing some very low-quality hockey coaching with Flea, or playing a simple game of catch. I’m also working this week on digging my own (small) flower bed. I’ve watched a YouTube video, so what could possibly go wrong?
So there you have it. No silver linings or amazing “hacks” for surviving lockdown with a teenager, just two people making the best of it. But I am certainly learning more about myself through this process. What I do and don’t miss when it’s absent. What I can live without when I don’t have as much income. And how much I truly, truly loathe supermarket shopping.
How’s quarantine treating you so far?