The best support we can offer young people during this stressful time is:
- open communication
- active and non-judgmental listening
- modelling positive behaviour
Using these strategies can help our teens learn to regulate their own emotions, communicate effectively and build resilience by engaging in a positive support system. Below we have outlined some ways you can ease the transition back to school for the young people in your life!
Begin by having an open and honest conversation about how your teen feels about going back into the school environment after a prolonged lockdown.
- Acknowledge the normality of feeling worried, scared, confused, angry, excited. Try to understand the nature of these feelings – are they distressing distracting, confusing? It is important to listen and empathise, not to ‘fix’. Jumping into problem solving mode too early may mean your teen will not feel heard or understood.
- Refer to our ‘How to start conversations with teens’ blog for more information.
- Explore with your teen where these concerns are coming from. Eg. fear of catching covid, worrying about social interactions after not seeing peers for so long, concern about being behind in school work etc.
- Ask your teen what support they need to help this transition period smoother. Some prompts could include ‘what might help make the return to school easier for you?’, ‘how could we help you feel more engaged with your friends?’, ‘what could help you feel more confident about your school work?’
- Through the answers provided by your teen, you could establish an action plan to ease back into a new normal routine.
- Discuss with your teen how school is the best environment for young people to learn as well as for their social and emotional development. Be prepared for any other discussions related to concerns such as mask wearing, safety protocols within schools, vaccinations etc. You do not need to know all of the answers asked by your teen. Spending time together exploring the information available on the internet can be a way of spending time together whilst learning together.
What I can control/What I cannot control
The experience of COVID restrictions and recurring lockdowns have left people with significant feelings around lacking control over their own lives. Young people heading back to school are likely to experience similar feelings of powerlessness and limited choice.
For those teens struggling with the transition of returning to school, focusing on of the things they cannot control can feel overwhelming. A helpful activity for you and your teen to undertake is to explore those things within their lives that they CAN control. Understanding that, alongside the uncontrollable, there are still parts of our lives within our control, can recreate a sense of balance, stability and empowerment.
Concern that they may be behind in their learning/schoolwork
- Reassure your teen that ALL students have been learning from home for the same amount of time that they have, and that they will have an opportunity to catch up to where they need to be
- Remind them that their teachers will be compassionate and understanding of their situation
- For teens with serious concerns about their schoolwork, you might offer to assist them in speaking to their teacher about their needs where required.
Expressing fears for health and safety
Try to discuss facts and safety protocols put in place at schools. Discuss the possibility of another lockdown and but remind young people that it’s not in our control.
We hope you enjoyed these tips. Visit raise.org.au/mentor to apply to become a youth mentor in 2022.