Parent2Parent through Covid-19

April 14, 2020

I last wrote a blog for the Parent2Parent series back in September 2019, when the world was a very different place to how it is now, in the grip of a global pandemic.

My daughter Sophie was 16 and finding life overwhelming after an almost 4-year struggle with anxiety and depression. She felt stuck, as her peers moved on in education or the workplace, and whilst she had dreams and ambitions, she could not envisage how she could possibly achieve them.

Fast forward 7 months and the rollercoaster is now more like an open-ended road trip, with unscheduled stops, engine trouble and an unreliable SatNav – but also incredible highlights, exciting plans and a feeling we are actually getting somewhere. Although she sometimes suffers with low mood she is no longer depressed and can manage her anxiety most of the time.

Sophie is 17 and on paper her career and further education prospects appear limited as she has little in the way of qualifications or extra-curricular achievements, but I believe that is what will ultimately motivate her to go after what she really wants in life. Adversity is not always a permanent barrier although there have been and will be plenty of hurdles along the way.

She is educating herself in subjects she feels passionate about and will find her own way to a fulfilling future. She also works around 10 hours a week in a shop, which we still can’t quite believe!

Interestingly, the new way of life we are all having to adapt to due to coronavirus is nothing out of the ordinary to Sophie. For years she has lived with fear, usually imagining the worst- case scenario, so she is coping fine with what’s going on around her.

She is used to self-isolation and social distancing, so I think her biggest adjustment has been to have myself and her sister in the house with her almost constantly. It seems to have spurred her on to create more structure in her day, as we have had to do with working/schooling at home.

Initially there was some friction as her space was encroached upon but I actually believe she’s now enjoying the company – which hopefully means that when we get back to our new normal, Sophie will crave more human contact and get out of the house more. She is certainly planning to do so and even wants to undertake a volunteering project abroad.

My husband and I are now learning what it’s like to live with a young adult who desperately needs her independence but isn’t quite there yet. Obviously, we’re incredibly relieved that Sophie is feeling so much better but I think we will always be worried about her mental health. We do our best not to let her see our concern.

Ultimately, Sophie has been disadvantaged by being so unwell through her teenage years and missing out on many aspects of her education, including social and emotional skills usually learnt at school. She will have to fight the stigma that sadly still exists around mental health and work extra hard to create the opportunities she craves. She will need to build greater resilience and always be careful to look after herself, physically and psychologically.

Nevertheless, I hold onto the hope that what she has already been through in her 17 years will ensure she matures further into an empathetic and irrepressible young woman.

My advice to any parent/carer who has concerns about a young person’s mental health and wellbeing is to ask for help as soon as possible. It’s important to find the right professional support for your child, but also make sure you have support too. Get in touch with Parent2Parent if you need a friendly ear and a chat with someone who understands.

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