It is said we are all going through a significant time in history right now. The spread of COVID-19 has changed everyone’s day-to-day life, no matter how old you are.
But, being a teen in 2020 is significantly different than life as a teen at anything other time in history. I thought I'd share some insight into what life’s really like during this pandemic, from the perspective of a teen.
I’m sure everyone can relate to how hard it is to be in the house all day. From not finding the motivation to go outside, to having to put up with my parents all day (sorry mom and dad), to keeping myself busy and trying to be productive in general, it was tough.
My mom is a pharmacist, so I spent two months at my dad’s house as it was high-risk to be with my mom as her job keeps her in contact with many people. My parents are divorced, and I typically switch back and forth every Monday, so not seeing my mom for so long was a very difficult experience.
I feel kids who already have rocky relationships with the people they are quarantining with under the same roof either become closer or even more distant. I am lucky and grateful to not be in a dangerous home but quarantine would have been extremely difficult for kids that do live in those conditions
Although it was difficult at times, in the end, the relationship between me and each of my parents improved. They both got involved and helped me with my schoolwork. Being stuck at home and hanging out with each parent gave us the chance to do more activities together, like walks and biking, bringing us closer. We got into deep conversations, covering many topics from a social to a political viewpoint.
One thing I’m sure you’ve heard all kids talk about is the switch to online school. It put a great deal of stress and pressure on all students and teachers. Students taught the material to themselves in addition to learning it, and teachers were trying to teach an entire curriculum through a computer screen.
Between not being able to see friends, not pursuing many of our favourite hobbies, staying in the house almost all day, and trying to keep an organized schedule, it was very overwhelming. Not to mention we had no time to ease into this new lifestyle. During the first few weeks of online school, I was a complete mess. I was finishing assignments days before their deadlines, and many others I know struggled with online learning, as well.
I think a major thing that affected the performance of students is the disconnect that exists between us and our teachers. This caused a lot of misunderstanding and made it harder for students to complete work as they may not have understood the material as they would have in the classroom. Parents, this is where it is important not to pressure your kids a terrible amount into completing their assignments. It really is not as simple as it sounds, and it puts even more stress on us if you’re excessively pressuring us into completing work.
Although the connection between some students and teachers got lost, I found I had deeper, more meaningful conversations with some of my teachers, and had been enjoying and understanding the classwork more. I’ve always been a shy, quiet kid, so messaging teachers instead of talking face-to-face helped me express more of how I truly felt about the work. I feel as though many kids might relate to that.
In my case, I’ve done well in school since I was very young. But, I have actually improved in many ways since the switch to online schooling, and I’m not just talking about grades, because the marks we receive don’t fully represent how we do in school.
I have learned how I, as an individual, receive knowledge. Instead of following the Ministry of Education's structured timeline for students, I have found that waking up at 6:30 a.m. and starting to learn at 9 a.m. just doesn’t work for me. I am getting eight to 10 hours of sleep as opposed to the five to seven hours of sleep when I had to wake up to go to school, and I don’t feel rushed and stressed in the mornings which leads to not being stressed when it’s time to work. I work on my bed with blankets and pillows, I play music in the background, and I have a water bottle handy.
Working in my own space helped reduce a lot of stress during these times, and because I deal with mental illness, having those stress-reducing strategies really helped. But, being in the house all day, not seeing friends and having to do schoolwork is certainly not summer break, as many teens hoped it would be and many parents think it is.
I struggled a lot.
Being away from my friends was one of the harder hits on my mental health. They are my emotional support system and have gotten me through so much. Not seeing them took that away, therefore affecting my mental health negatively. Seeing them through a screen just isn’t as personal. I have lost touch with many people over quarantine, which shows me how important human connection really is.
Thankfully, my friends and I did not disconnect. We kept each other updated on our lives and eventually got to hang out while social distancing (just in time for both of their birthdays!). I am so thankful we were able to stay close, even if we were physically apart. Now that we’re able to hang out again, it feels as though we were never apart.
But, I had many very good times as well.
I began to do the shopping for my mom and dad. Doing the groceries was always just another chore, but at the start of quarantine, it was the only time I would interact with the public. This made me want to put on makeup and dress nice! I hadn’t gotten dressed up in so long that I would go all out when even just going to the grocery store. This overall improved my self-esteem, which is low, especially in quarantine.
While staying at home is tiring, it also provided some benefits. I felt less social pressure than before COVID-19. When my geography teacher would host a virtual meeting, I was more likely to type out an answer as I didn’t have to worry about peer judgment. My guitar lessons switched to virtual lessons, and I felt I had more confidence to speak out and ask questions.
When I needed some fresh air, I began to take my little dog, Oak, on walks. I started doing it for him as my other dog, Buddy, hurt both of his legs and could barely walk. That’s when I started taking Oak out. It became a habit, and it fit itself into my daily routine. After a few walks, I started to realize how much getting outside, smiling and talking to neighbours (from a distance), listening to music and just clearing my head was benefiting my mental health. I even listened to a few podcasts on my walks. My dad suggested the idea that we also go for morning walks as well, and it was a great way to start the day by getting outside nice and early. I suggest everyone does this as well.
Overall, quarantine has had its ups and downs. In the end, I found my experience depended on what I chose to do with my time and how I reacted to the challenges I was faced with, so doing all the things I did really helped me. I feel as though I struggled a lot, but I was able to keep myself busy and ended up having some very cool experiences. I will never forget this moment in history, and how I lived in it.
A teen in quarantine
Kaida Simpson is a BayToday guest writer, secondary school student and North Bay resident.