How Covid 19, schools lock-down have changed parenting of teenagers

By Kienga Lisa Brenda

The Coronavirus pandemic continues to wreak havoc in families all over.

From the time the government shut learning institutions and students returned home in March 2020, situations have changed drastically in many families—the new family order has set in!

Days ago when I visited a local chemist, I overheard her complaining over the bad behavior of her daughter at home.

“I have put her on family planning pills.” She said, loudly wondering when the “Corona holiday”, as she put it, would end because she desperately wanted the girl back in school.

That piqued my curiosity and in bid to unravel more, I requested an interview which she readily granted.

Dickson* (not real name) is a resident of Chamgiwadu village in Migori County. He is a large-scale sugarcane farmer of modest income.

He is also a strict disciplinarian and puritan parent. His wife, a nurse by profession, runs a drugstore at the local market.

Her job keeps her away from her family for the better part of the day. They have three children: a girl in high school, a boy in upper primary and a girl in lower primary school.

The family lives in a modern four bedroom bungalow at the slope of Chamgiwadu hills, where the red roof of the bungalow juts over the leafy sugarcane canopy.

But of late, both Dickson and his wife have been forced to reschedule their operations to accommodate taking care of their children.

‘My daily routine has changed completely,” Says the distraught nurse. “I spend many hours a day basically micromanaging my daughter. I don’t want her to poison her younger sister.”  

When term times used to progress normally, she routinely left the home at the wee hours of the morning only to return beyond sunset. Whenever it rained, which happened often, she returned quite late in the night, and that was normal.

Her husband also spent the day overseeing operations in his sugarcane farms. He drove around in his double cabin pick-up inspected field preparations and also chasing payment from the sugar companies he supplies with sugarcane.

But not anymore. Things went out of control from the time their first daughter Tina* (not her real name) started dedicating a lot of time on the phone.

She could borrow her mother’s android phone and busy herself with endless texting, online chatting and making animated phone calls. Tina never retired to bed before midnight. When he mother withdrew the phone from her, the mother was shocked to receive strange messages and phone calls from men referring to her as bae.

From the texts she learnt with horror that her daughter was engaging in sex with multiple partners. One text message described an escapade inside sugarcane farm.

“I also discovered that my daughter had accessed my mobile account and depleted it on airtime and internet bundles.”

 Even though Tina is on FP pills, her mother fears that she could contract HIV unnerves. She now ensures Tina doesn’t use any phone.  

She gives Tina lots of work. Nowadays Dickson barely leaves home. His wife explains:

“I leave for work at 8am. I close the shop and return home over lunch and end the day at 4pm just to ensure Tina doesn’t roam around. It feels like we’re in prison in our own home.”

The writer is a journalism student at KCA University