This is possibly the strangest time in our lives and boredom is something we are all running away from, right? Well, I’d just like to say how lucky I am to work from home and spend time with my daughter.
I’m realising more and more how much I have missed her. Time has always felt stolen and now I can finally appreciate it.
I love how still my life is right now. I can finally see and hear things I’ve missed for years, including getting to know the amazing young woman my ‘little girl’ is growing to be. She’s almost fourteen and officially a teenager/vampire right now. You may or may not remember being a teen, but I’m pretty sure we all know just how difficult it is, even when a world pandemic is not happening around us! With the help of my daughter, we have made a list of activities your teens can do to keep them happy and occupied during this grim movie we are living in.
Before I start, a little tip. Please try not to argue over meaningless things if you can help it. I know we are all living on top of each other, but these are fragile times for all of us; like allowing your teen extra time in bed in the morning. Seriously, they will actually function better throughout the day. I don’t mean let them sleep until lunch, but this doesn’t have to be a normal school day schedule. Nothing about this situation is normal. Of course it’s annoying when I’m living with a vampire everyday, but I’m hopeful she will get fed up with hiding from the sun.
My daughter does English and Maths for a couple of hours in the morning. I have attempted a few walks with her just before lunch time, but she seems to freak out when she sees the outside and we have to compromise on how many more steps she will do before she can go back indoors. After lunch, she does any GCSE subject she’s picked for an hour. We ordered all her GCSE revision books second hand from Depop and Ebay for under £20.
My daughter isn’t interested in reading at the moment, so we have again compromised and she’s now listening to audio books instead.
I have given her a list of subjects to study that she doesn’t get to properly in school, like how to manage money and the importance of good credit, which are things I struggled with, even as an adult. Have a think about what things you wish you’d known when you left school. Write your top five down and challenge your teen to learn about them.
Money can be a touchy subject for most of us, especially now, but try not to panic in front of your teens. Rather, just be honest and positive and let them know about your resilience and things we can all do to financially help ourselves.
I ordered a goHenry card for my daughter just before quarantine and it’s being so useful. I make a list of chores or work she has to complete weekly and once they are ticked off by me, money goes into her account. It’s given her a chance at experiencing working for somebody. Even if it’s for me and I’m paying just 50p or £1 a job, it all adds up. It works from an app we are both connected to and tracks her spending and helps with introducing a budget. You don’t need a bank like this. You could do it with cash or a normal card. It’s a win win situation for both parties. They are upskilling, not only with money management but also how to take care of a home, doing chores. We are only parting with what we can afford and it’s taking things off our endless lists to do, but I admit spending 50p on her washing up feels like way too much.
Another way to make some money is first of all #Marie Kondo their bedrooms. Clearing out their bedrooms of things that are no longer used not only kills time but it also encourages them to appreciate the things they do love and have. Places like depop, ebay and shpock are all good for selling used items. Your teens will appreciate making some money from old things and perhaps be inspired to start their own business. My daughter sold various items of clothing from her wardrobe. She made up a list of tools and materials to buy and she’s using these to make earrings and scrunchies to sell in bundles on depop.
The Great Isolated Bake Off
Get your Cook on or Bake on. Chef or not, we can be whoever we want to be just now. Who’s going to know if the cake is flat as a pancake? Nobody. Ask your teens to choose a few meals they have never made before, just before you go to the shop. Take it in turns to cook or bake throughout the week. My daughter has made some amazing and not so amazing meals, but I am still so grateful for the overcooked gnocchi, because she tried. Respect their choices and ask what nourishment they contain. What vitamins and minerals will you be getting? This will also prepare them for living alone and taking care of themselves with a nutritious diet when the time for moving out comes.
Allow your teens to practise self care in whatever ways come naturally to them first. For instance, my daughter likes makeup. She doesn’t wear it much but really appreciates the art of makeup artists and often enjoys watching YouTube tutorials. She is learning one look a week at the moment. I don’t think we should encourage our teens to wear makeup to hide their insecurities, but using makeup to give themselves a lift is cool with me. The makeup industry makes so much money from teens every day, and they are usually testing on animals or using cheap, synthetic ingredients in their products that are no good for our skin. Ask your child to research what ingredients are in their favourite products and where they are made. It gives them a chance to make their mind up about what they want to support and a look into taking care of themselves in all the best ways.
Introduce them to a skincare routine now! A simple cleansing, toning and moisturising routine for teens will help protect their skin – and using the right products for them will calm their problematic skin down. Also, a great self care task is applying a face mask once a week. My daughter has made her own, using honey and yogurt this week. She also made a hair mask using aloe vera, egg, avocado, honey and apple cider vinegar. Look on pinterest and get your teens experimenting with using natural alternatives to use and combine at home.
This time we are living in is unbelievable and is going to be taught in schools when our teens have children. Ask them to write a journal. After all, this is going to be a huge part in our history. Journalling is a great way for them to empty their heads of negative thoughts or even too many thoughts. My daughter practises self care by writing daily things she’s grateful for and positive affirmations about herself in the morning, before she starts her day. I think she writes daily goals and weekly goals, too. We can’t always speak to each other about everything and sometimes writing a diary feels safer than saying those things out loud to another person. Encourage poetry and maybe give them prompting questions to use in their journal like How do I feel about what’s going on in the world?
I am convinced I was born into royalty of some sort in a past life, because of my obsession with luxury materials and very well made clothes. But as I definitely wasn’t born into royalty this lifetime, I have found vintage and second hand shops my saviours. My daughter has adapted this love for thrift shopping and often comes home with gems from the charity shops near our home. Whilst they are closed, she is finding new ways of adding new ideas to her wardrobe. She has so far tried a few low cost techniques at upcycling old clothes she’s now bored with.
It’s cheap and automatically makes an item more special and personal with just a little embroidery. I ordered a set of embroidery rings, silk thread and tracing paper so she could put her favourite illustration onto the back of her denim jacket.
Probably the most common way of upcycling clothes. My daughter has tie dyed discoloured tops, jogging bottoms and odd socks and they are now worth keeping and wearing again.
Fabric paint or pens
We had a few paints that were almost done, so she upcycled some plain trainers she didn’t really wear by painting pastel colours on them. They now look like exclusive trainers. I think that’s how they would describe them? Or I have just made a cringy mum mistake. Fabric pens are great for tshirts and you can also use paints on old jeans and jackets.
Iron on patches
Iron on patches can be bought in all types of variations. They don’t cost a lot and can completely transform a plain or damaged item of clothing.
I had an old vest that looked tired and ugly, My daughter cut the neck and bottom half and now it’s a fresh looking crop top on her for summer. She also cut up some old silk pjs with a really nice print and sewed them onto the front and back pockets of some jeans. You could get them to make their own protective masks for themselves and the family out of old fabric and elastic from bobbles, or order some elastic in bulk from ebay or Amazon.
A few of our favourite people online are doing different challenges for us all to take part in. Mary Benson, a Leeds born designer, focuses on sustainability with her brand and she does a #dressupfriday challenge on instagram and Facebook. Get your teens out of their pjs (if they can physically peel them off) and challenge them to dress their best. Mary shares everybody who tags themselves. Your teens will remember how good it feels to dress up and it will lift their mood.
Painting has been very therapeutic for my teen this past few weeks. She’s painted everything from clothing, picture frames and canvases to her bedroom bin. We have currently run out and are awaiting a delivery of paint. You don’t have to be a fine artist to enjoy painting. Your teens can just splash a load of black paint onto a canvas and probably feel better afterwards. We are currently negotiating her painting the bathroom cow print. The fact I am considering this is probably some kind of isolation insanity.
Get crafty! We have two indoor cats and one of them in particular loves to sit in boxes, drawers and bags. My daughter decided to make a cat taxi. There are lots of tutorials for cat taxis, buses etc on YouTube. We even saw a cat tank made from cardboard the other day. I think that’s the next project in favour. You could create a maze for a hamster or a throne for your dog, depending what size dog and boxes you have. All you need is a cardboard box, scissors or knife. And paint if you wish?
Social Distancing Connecting
Let them go on tik tok; just restrict their times on it. It’s a good distraction for them and it keeps them exercising. They can film dance routines or even their make up applications. It’s good for their creativity and helps them feel connected to their friends and the whole world of people currently isolating. My daughter is slowly coming round to the idea of us both doing a tik tok routine. Fingers crossed she will do one soon with me. So many families are coming together, recreating these silly routines, grandads and grandmas included!
I asked my daughter to do a rainbow painting for the NHS and she rudely replied ‘’rainbows are childish’’ So instead she made her own drawings using colourful sharpies. I joined in and did some rainbow boobies, to which she cringed ‘’grow up Mum’’. More of an accurate judgment that time.
As a former film student and script writer, I love the art of cinema. I believe in the power of storytelling through film and encourage my daughter to watch coming of age movies. She has seen my era of coming of age, the era before that and her own. I like questioning her about the characters and finding out which she relates to. Coming of age films are great for them to start to understand themselves and their peers. It’s a good use of Netflix.
Their favorite actor, singer, social influencer will most likely be setting challenges or hosting live workshops or concerts at this time. Have them schedule a few in their diaries and they can look forward to it like a real event. We recently joined in a Parris Goebel choreography live workshop. I found it really cool that this woman is from New Zealand and is a massive A List choreographer around the world, and we had a chance to take part in one of her classes. I don’t think the enormity of this really sank in for my teen.
I hope you can take something from this list that will help keep your teens entertained. I know it’s hard work when they seem annoyed by any little thing we say, but persevere – they love us really.
Help if you need it
Also, just to add in case you need any help with their mental health, organisations are helping our young adults and teens across Leeds over the internet or by telephone such as Getaway Girls, Mind Mate, Market Place and texting services like Kooth.
Photographs by Robyn Wilson.