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Watch: Teenagers living through the pandemic explain how they've had to adapt to a world that has slowed down or shut down during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Video and photography by Melissa Tait/The Globe and Mail

Adrian Lau

Toronto, age 13

The last time I hung out with friends outside of school was in November, just before lockdown. There were four of us. We went to the mall and hung out, saying goodbye for now. We could talk still, but we couldn’t meet each other anywhere because the pandemic had gotten worse.

If I see them again, it’ll probably be in high school. It’s just for the better good. I’m not going to risk their lives just to hang out. I play video games online with them. We talk about school and sports and video games.

I think my parents would let me see friends if I wanted to. They’d say just be very, very careful, and always have your mask on and keep a safe distance.

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It’s been very hard not being able to play basketball. When I play basketball, all the things that are happening in life, I just put them to the side. I can put all this pandemic stuff out of the way. I try to go the park twice a week. And I watch games with my family. I also like to dance sometimes, and paint.

I’m on my school basketball team. I hate that we can’t play games, and we can’t practise. I just want to go back to simple life.

Adrian Lau in Toronto misses basketball games, while Ayesha Rehman in Châteauguay, Que., misses her best friend who goes to a different school.

Ayesha Rehman

Châteauguay, Que., age 13

I don’t get to see friends on weekends and after school, but I have a few friends at school. At lunchtime, we walk around and talk. My best friend goes to a different school, and we haven’t been able to see each other for six months.

We still stay in touch. I’ll recommend shows to her. We talk about what’s going on at school. Mostly we just text.

It will be amazing to see her whenever I can. I wanted to do so many things with her. If I can see her before winter ends, I would like to do outside things with her, like going tubing.

When I came back to school last year, I was looking forward to doing sports, which I love. But I can’t do any sports. I do dance and swimming. I like trying new things. All the after-school activities are closed, so it’s getting kind of boring.

Even if I do feel a little bit anxious, I try to find a way to make it better. I write. I have a blog called Ayesha’s Adventures. I watch shows with my mom. My mom and I do everything together.

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'My sleep schedule has been flipped upside down' because of the pandemic, says Evan Prince.

Evan Prince

Winnipeg, age 17

School sucks. What made school good was the social life and interactions with people. Now we have to stay six feet apart from everybody. There can’t be big groups. I don’t even know if I’m having a graduation this year.

The only time I have a social life is when I’m gaming. That’s the only time I can interact with my friends.

It’s my Grade 12 year, too. For over a decade, I’ve been told this was going to be my best year. There’s nothing I can do to change it, and it sucks.

It’s a struggle. I feel like I’ve gotten insomnia because of all this. The teachers are very understanding and will help you out. They know it’s a very tough year for everybody. I’m in calculus, I’m in theatre. There’s all these expectations. My sleep schedule has been flipped upside down because of it.

I’m sleeping after school because I’m very tired, and then playing games all night because there’s nothing else to do. Some nights it’s all-nighters. Some nights, I’ll go to bed at 12. The only time I go to bed early is on school nights.

It’s very lonely at times. I miss people. I miss social interaction. I wish I could hug somebody without fear.

Chira Achim: 'I haven’t seen a friend outside of school in a long time.'

Chira Achim

Regina, age 16

I have ADHD, so school online is difficult. My grades have gone down a lot. Before, my mental health was never the best. But since this whole thing started, it’s definitely gotten worse. I’m doing Zoom calls with a therapist. It’s just really weird. I have anxiety and depression.

I haven’t seen a friend outside of school in a long time. The last person outside my family I saw face to face outside of school was my partner, and that was two months ago.

We’ve been together for a little over a year. She’s immunocompromised, so we have to be careful. It’s a lot of Snapchats, a lot of FaceTime. It’s like being in a long-distance relationship.

My mom is understandably worried about the pandemic, but she’d probably let me see friends. But really, is it worth somebody potentially dying to hang out for two hours?

My mom is always in my corner. I appreciate her in my life. But of course I want to go out sometimes. It gets lonely at home.

I play my fair share of video games. I watch too much TV. I’m watching a lot of children’s cartoons just for that escapism. And I’m working on a novel – I just needed to do something, and I love to write.

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Carmen Golnaraghi is co-president of her high school student council and says she’s doing well because she has a great group of friends.

Carmen Golnaraghi

Vancouver, age 17

I’m in four clubs at school, but the one I usually do on Fridays is philanthropy club. We just find ways to help youth and adults in need in our community, and give back to them and fundraise for them. I usually start off my evening with my club meeting, and afterwards, I make dinner with my family and watch a movie with them. Then I usually study a bit.

I’m not allowed to go out right now to meet my friends because of the guidelines, so I like to FaceTime them. It’s definitely a struggle. We talk about how school is going, how we’ve been feeling. We like to be there for one another, support each other, motivate each other.

It’s hard, for sure, not seeing everyone. But I’m still surrounded by such great classmates. I’m just really looking forward to planning future events with my student council team. I’m also part of the R&B band at my school, and I’m so excited to one day get back together with them and perform for an audience when COVID is gone.

I think my perspective on life has already changed so much because of the pandemic. I’ve learned to be more appreciative of simple things, like a high-five or a hug. And never take things like family time for granted.

Dina Efrem is co-editor of her high-school newspaper in Ottawa.

Dina Efrem

Ottawa, age 17

School has definitely been a challenge. It feels like an appointment you go to. You just go, you learn, and then you leave with minimal social interaction.

You can talk on the phone with your friends or you can FaceTime, but then it becomes mentally draining because you’re on your phone for hours and hours a day, and you don’t want to be on your phone that long, but you need that human interaction.

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This fear has been built into our day-to-day lives. I want to hang out with my friends because I desperately need that human interaction, but then there’s the thought: Am I going to be responsible for someone else’s illness and their family being sick? COVID has become everything in our world. You turn on the TV and that’s what you hear. You go to school and there’s all these COVID precautions.

For a few months, up until a couple of weeks ago, I had really bad insomnia. My brain wouldn’t shut off.

Through adversity comes more strength, and I do think my generation will be able to adapt to and work through any barrier that comes their way, because we’ve had to work and adapt through this. It’s affected every aspect of our lives, and we’re still persevering against all odds.


Mental-health tips for supportive parents

Pandemic restrictions mean teens aren’t able to develop the same independence and connections they usually form at this stage of life. Dr. Joanna Henderson with Youth Wellness Hubs and The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health gives some tips for parents on how to support their children. The Globe and Mail

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