The Coronavirus lockdown may have been partially lifted in some places, but many families are still experiencing social distancing blues. Each time Neha Chowdhury (49) knocks on the door of her 17-year-old daughter’s room, the reply from inside is:
“Stop bothering me”. Teenage tantrums and nagging parents is a deadly combo, especially in these Covid-19 times. Everyone is homebound and grappling with the pandemic. Perhaps it is a tougher transition for adolescents who are unable to vent their feelings or meet their best pals.
For teens in love, heartache caused by separation is another excruciating boredom. No wonder they are now dubbed as the ‘quaranteens’.
Being a teenager with all that hormonal and adrenaline rush is indeed a difficult phase. With schools and colleges shut, social distancing and no physical contact with friends, many teens are missing out on the best days of their lives.
The matter is so grave and universal that even UNICEF has come out with strategies for teens to cope with social isolation during the Corona crisis.
“There is no freedom. I feel like a prisoner in my own house. They (parents) are constantly telling me what to do,” says Karan Singh (19), an FYJC student from Delhi. Nilofer Shaikh (18), a student of Rizvi College, Bandra says, “Staying at home is difficult. I can’t even go out to see my friends in person at the Carter Road promenade. I miss going to college and participating in extracurricular activities.”
While teenagers complain of parents scuttling their freedom, many parents are coping with the outcome of the pandemic – taking care of old parents, pay cuts, job loss, hospital bills and loss of dear ones to the deadly virus.
“It is tough handling a teenager, especially in these Covid times,” says Alex Fernandes (49), whose travel agency has suffered heavy losses as the tourism industry has been worse hit. “Each time I or my wife try to talk to our teen son, he literally snarls at us.”
Like everybody else, the lives of many teenagers have started to tailspin because of the pandemic. Neeraj Kumar, a mentor-cum-professor and coordinator of Mass Media at Kirti M. Doongursee College, Mumbai has received many distress calls from her students.
“Some students are going through a financial crisis. Others are cooped up at home with parents and siblings. Some are enjoying this free time but a majority of them are worried about their exams and future. My final year students are wondering if they will get any jobs once they are out of college,” Neeraj says.
Handle With Care
The predicament of young students is palpable. For a minute close your eyes and imagine yourself as a teen.
How would you feel if you are constantly bombarded with a list of do’s and don’ts no swimming; no going to the gym; no going out; no meeting friends; don’t sleep till late; don’t watch TV; why are you stuck to the mobile; do some housework. The order list is endless.
Chennai-based Kesang Menezes, a certified parent educator and founder of Parenting Matters says that the lockdown and social distancing is particularly challenging for youngsters. “You need to understand that teenagers thrive on social connections. They are missing their college routine and friends.
Try to communicate with them as non-threatening as possible. Parents need to give teenagers their space without invading their privacy,” says Kesang, adding, “May be two or three friends could wear masks and meet in the society garden or open terrace with social distancing.”
One of the advantages of the pandemic is that people have the time to do things together. Maybe the entire family can switch off the TV and mobiles and sit down to have lunch and dinner together each day. A lot can be discussed frankly over the dinner table.
“Today, all teenagers have an online life. You cannot police them constantly. Hence, conversation is the best policy with adolescents,” says Kesang, who has a teenage daughter herself.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us are staying at home and doing less in terms of social interactions and exercise. The World Health Organisation (WHO) states that this can have a negative effect on our physical and mental health. Maria Abranches, a school teacher-cum-active listener and Befriender from Goa says that loneliness can get heightened due to the lockdown.
“Teens are rebellious. Take baby steps. Talk to them. Engage with them. The moment you tell a teenager NOT to do something, he or she will do it,” says Maria, stressing, “Show concern and start a conversation.”
The ‘New Normal’
The WHO states that the realities of the ‘new normal’ working from home, temporary unemployment, home-schooling of children, and lack of physical contact with other family members, friends and colleagues take time to get used to. Also, many teens have taken to bumming a cigarette on the sly.
Avoid using alcohol and drugs as a way of dealing with fear, anxiety, boredom and social isolation. Neeraj who has two young children herself says that she knows what youngsters are going through.
“I have told my kids not to complain of boredom. The college has started conducting webinars and online counseling sessions for students to help them cope with anxiety and loneliness. Normalising their feelings is very important. It is a challenge not to have your friends around you for months,” says Neeraj, who has been teaching for 18 years.
The lockdown has forced many of us to stay at home and sit down more than usual. As a result, several young and old folks are complaining of back ache, neck pain and frozen shoulder. Salman Sayyed (25), a certified physical trainer of Gold’s Gym India, Mumbai suggests people take short breaks from work at home.
“You can do a few suryanamaskar. Do 3-4 minutes of light intensity physical movement such as walking or stretching. It helps ease your muscles and improve blood circulation and muscle activity,” he says.
So the next time you think of telling your teen kids why they can’t hang out with their friends, try to be their friend first. Have a friendly conversation. They will listen!