Skip to content
Join our Newsletter

Ask Ellie: COVID-related job loss has teen depressed

“What about the teenagers?” That question is being asked by many parents about limited choices facing their older kids during the two formerly idyllic months of outdoor activities and expanded freedoms.
Advice columnist Ellie

Advice columnist Ellie“What about the teenagers?”

That question is being asked by many parents about limited choices facing their older kids during the two formerly idyllic months of outdoor activities and expanded freedoms.

Q: My son, 17, has spent countless hours in instructional swimming classes, accumulating his credits toward lifesaver status.

He had been looking forward to what he hoped would be his first summer-camp employment, as entry-level swim-staff, teaching youngsters to swim.

He loved the idea of working with kids, living by a lake, having a responsible job and making some money.

That’s no longer possible since the closure of overnight summer camps, almost one month ago.

Now, my son remains in the city, stuck with the same restrictions he and some of his friends faced during the lockdown:

They still can’t get together because they have a health-compromised relative living at home. There are also few jobs available, since so many unemployed men and women need the work to support their families.

My son has gone from upbeat and positive to moody and negative about the future since, though schools are supposed to reopen in the fall, rumours predict a potential second COVID-19 surge right around then.

How can I help him?

Mom of a Troubled Teen

Hang onto your clear-eyed understanding and reality checks, while your son adapts to an increasingly complex world around him.

To borrow from former U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama, quoting her mother’s parenting motto: “You’re raising an adult, not a child.”

Think of your son’s overall mental health, not just a particular disappointment such as the closed camps.

Since a huge number of kids and staffers alike had that same disappointment, he can understand that it’s a public health move meant to protect, not punish.

Much is still unknown about this novel coronavirus.

While children are less likely to get infected, there have been limited but severe cases of COVID-related multi-system inflammatory illness in children. In Ontario, the authorities took no chances.

Your son isn’t alone in his moods and negativity.

A Centre for Addiction and Mental Health study last April, among people ages 14-to-27, reported “statistically significant deterioration of mental health,” from before the pandemic to when the new information was collected.

Senior study lead Dr. Joanna Henderson, quoted in the Toronto Star, May 29, said: “Those who haven’t been experiencing mental health difficulties are experiencing them now.”

Another Canadian survey released in May, revealed that respondents 15-to-17 showed 72 per cent reporting sadness often or sometimes.

That’s a lot of teenagers feeling hopeless.

“Kids are having high levels of anxiety, there’s a lot of uncertainty about the future,” said Ashley Manuel, of the Association for Canadian Studies that teamed for the survey with Experiences Canada and the Vanier Institute of the Family.

Yet, a positive effect emerged among some teens who were isolating at home, says Manuel: “More meaningful conversations at home with their families connecting with their parents, and the dynamic in the home.”

(If only meaningful conversations and connections with their teens were possible in all families).

Fortunately, they can happen in yours. The takeaway for your son and other moody or anxious/ depressed youth is that help is available during the pandemic.

Virtual counselling services now exist at a national network of youth mental-health centres called ACCESS Open Minds (AOM), which serve urban, rural, and Indigenous communities.

Encourage your son to take advantage. It’s a step forward toward his regaining positivity about his future. That’s what teen years are meant to be, when you’re “raising adults.”

Reader’s commentary regarding the woman annoyed that COVID-19 interrupted her affair with a married man now quarantined with his wife (May 29):

“My husband’s been having an affair, seeing his selfish, loose friend at least three times weekly and talking to her daily.

“But he’s also very loving with me, attentive and makes every effort to be a father and husband.

“We’ve discussed this woman. He says she’s lonely, can’t get anyone else and has mental health problems.

“He thinks he’s doing her a favour, but he’s destroying our family with his affair. I’ve asked him to leave but he refuses and says he doesn’t want her.

“Why do women steal another woman’s partner?”

Ellie: This is a question that has existed throughout time, and requires space for my answer, which I’ll give next week.

Readers: Send your answers and your own experiences with this question (all genders). I’ll publish them anonymously.

Ellie’s tip of the day

Teens feeling anxiety/depressed about the pandemic can get youth-related mental health support.

Send relationship questions to

Follow @ellieadvice.