I step into the living room with a couple of ideas for lunch to find my daughter sitting perfectly still, staring into space and listening to music on her headphones. Any parent will know that it is inadvisable to disturb a teenager in such moods as they are on another plane and you may feel their wrath if you dare. I go into the kitchen, make a cheese sandwich and a green salad then quietly disappear.

Unless you cultivate ‘teenage-sensitive radars,’ as a parent you may discover that life can be quite a challenge at times. Parenting a teenager has not been easy during lockdown because our natural instinct is to protect them from taking risks and yet it is precisely at this stage in their lives that we need to foster independent behaviour within them. These are the crucial years when huge personal development takes place, as they form a stronger sense of self and explore how they fit in socially. Many are about to take off to go to uni; the last thing they need is to be stuck at home or to go ‘shopping with Mother!'

I chat with my neighbour, a mother of three teenagers. “Lockdown would have been a lot easier if I hadn’t had to convince them to wake up before midday!” She confides. “Then trying to persuade them that getting out into the fresh air and going for a walk or a cycle will make them feel so much better is impossible!” I totally agree.

During lockdown I have been challenging myself to apply some structure to my daughter’s day, encouraging, supporting and trying to be a role model. I’ve tried to instil a positive mindset, attempting to build and share our routines. Together we’ve been baking, having clearouts, making pizzas and ‘bringing Nando’s home’ - attempting to make some of their delicious lockdown recipes.

I love to hear her laughing and chatting with her friends on the phone, although many teenagers have discovered now, post-lockdown, that some of their friendships have turned out to be weak or fake.

“Some of my friends have continued to make the effort, others have faded away,” my daughter confides. There are so many impossible expectations placed on them, like being popular within your peer group, being in a relationship, looking amazing and of course having a great social media profile with a zillion followers!

I have been saddened by the thought of these bright young things having been forced to feel so restricted in their moves at a time when the world should be their oyster. Connecting to my own inner teen has helped. Instead of trying to adapt to her reality, I experiment with taking her out of it and share my teenage memories with her, introducing her to music that influenced my life. As we drive into London to visit my mother, I play a few tracks from some inspirational early Kate Bush and Bowie albums. I then move onto some upbeat hits like Gloria Estefan’s Dr Beat and she giggles as the cheesy pop levels skyrocket while I sing along.

If I sense that she’s in the right state of mind she’ll listen to important events that I lived through as a teenager, like the day I passionately demonstrated with my ‘Grants not Loans’ banner back in the winter of 1988; those student protests escalated quite suddenly and before I knew it I was caught in the middle of a London riot as mounted police clashed with enraged students.

On a down day she’ll say something like, “I never imagined I’d be condemned to spend so much time with you two.” Of course it hurts, but the way she announces it so dramatically is quite funny. On such days her self-care routine goes out the window and she’d like to be left alone to wallow in her room, write in her journal or sketch out some fashion designs.

When I can convince her to come for a walk, we talk about all sorts of things; she’ll confide, “I used to have a six pack and a short trendy haircut, now I have a thin roll of fat around my belly and split ends!” Or tell me how much she’s missed hugging her friends or can’t wait to go vintage shopping again, “rifling through all of those bins brimming with weird tops and stuff”.

As parents we wish we could make it all go away. But ultimately, I have discovered that it’s not what we say but what we do as parents that counts. We have to lead by example, by being role models. I’d been nagging my daughter to take an online course in anything she wanted but it wasn’t until a couple of weeks of seeing me fully engaged with my online creative writing course that she actually made a commitment to learning French on Babbel.

I feel hopeful that a new day will dawn for this generation. I imagine how one day when these millennials are in their 90s, they’ll visit schools and give talks on what it felt like to experience those early days of lockdown, helping schoolchildren with their history projects. They’ll tell them about how the whole lack of social contact with friends and family ended up driving us all stir crazy. How strange we all looked with longer hair and how so many of us developed a penchant for baking.

  • Marisa Laycock moved to St Albans in 2000. She enjoys sharing her experiences of living in the city. These columns are also available as podcasts from 92.6FM Radio Verulam at www.radioverulam.com/smallcitylife .