Why Our Year 12s Need Creative Rites of Passage

by Collett SmartOur Year 12s Need Creative Rites of Passage
I have written before, on how different this Year looks for our Year 12 students. I know that students are struggling, because I am a parent of a Year 12. I have also had parents contact me for months, asking how they can support their child through this year.
So how can we point them to Hope?

 

In the last few weeks our kids heard that they will be losing more lasts. They’re really struggling with the news. It is absolutely vital that we find new ways to help them celebrate this last milestone year. Our Year 12s need creative Rites of Passage. 

We know that Victoria announced further lockdowns this term. Some students took Lockdown 2.0 in their stride, while others found it more  challenging than the first time.

NSW students heard that all graduations, inter-school sport, excursions, camps and formals had been cancelled for the rest of term 3. Some students heard this news just as they were about to sit their trial exams.

Then (what we all suspected would be next), Queensland confirmed there would be no schoolies celebrations this year.

 

What YOU Told Me About Your Year 12s

I reached out on my Facebook page, over a week ago, and asked you to email me:

  1. How your year 12 child (or student/s) is handling the announcements about changes.
  2. What has been cancelled completely.
  3. What your school is doing, to still help Year 12s celebrate and experience the end of school Rite of Passage (i.e. How have they been creative in coming up with different but great alternatives?).

I was flooded with emails, inbox messages and even phone calls from people I had never met. I heard about a lot of pain in families right now.

Your stories

Parents stories describe lots and lots of tears. Sadness at losses and, for some, fear and a perceived loss of hope about the future. One student told their parent, “There is nothing to look forward to, nothing.” Some said their children are handling things ok.

A common thread is the frustration of NSW parents and schools, at the perceived inconsistency between social distancing rules for school events, compared to what is allowed on public transport, in restaurants, food courts and sports clubs. Especially those in regional areas.

Tony George, the principal of The King’s School in Sydney, drew attention to the nonsensical and confusing rules between club, public and private school sport (Inter-school sport was then permitted to go ahead last week). Another principal felt that school leadership haven’t been trusted to go ahead with well planned, closely monitored and socially distanced (outdoor) graduations. Yet, restaurants, pubs and cafe’s could still host patrons from anywhere around the city. A NSW mother even began a petition, calling out some of theses irregularities.

 

Your children’s specific losses include:

  • Formals
  • Graduation assemblies
  • Year 12 parent/child breakfasts
  • Year 12 family chapel service
  • Year 12 Mothers’ Lunch
  • Old Boys hosted lunch for Year 12s
  • Valedictory dinners
  • Inter-school sport competitions
  • Last inter-state school competitions
  • Inter-school art and drama events
  • Last school excursions
  • Being the Seniors in the school and not being able to enjoy the associated privileges because schools are closed
  • Year 12 common rooms or Year 12 areas closed (because they can’t appropriately socially distance and they’re not allowed to share cutlery/microwave etc)
  • Year 12 camp
  • Duke of Edinburgh hike postponed
  • Final fun week activities
  • Staff vs Year 12 sports matches
  • Year 12 beach day
  • Year 12 ‘Muck Up’ day
  • Last whole school assembly, run by Year 12s
  • Study camps
  • Year group photos
  • University Open Days (onsite)
  • 18th birthday parties
  • End of term offsite picnic
  • Schoolies
  • Overseas/interstate gap year
  • Casual work and apprenticeship unknowns

 

Why Rites of Passage Matter

In Sydney alone, there have been a number of reports of suicide tragedies in senior students this year. In August, the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) data for Victoria recorded a 33 per cent rise in children presenting to hospital with self-harm injuries, compared to the same time last year.

Please hear me – I am not implying that the loss of Year 12 rites of passage alone has lead to such tragedies! But when young people are struggling (already having experienced bush fires or floods, personal or parental job losses, illness, death of loved ones and/or mental health challenges) for some, this loss of ‘lasts’ can add to their sense of hopelessness. Year 12 student Carla Tomaras told the ABC that a rise in mental health issues among young people was not surprising to her.

So, it is not ok to say to our Year 12s, “Oh come on, it’s not THAT big in the greater scheme of things.” or,  “Oh well, at least it’s not a war.” I’ve written before how unkind these statements are, but we also have no idea what some of these young people are quietly carrying.

 

But, Doesn’t Hardship Build Resilience?

Yes, learning to overcome difficulty can build resilience. But resilience doesn’t develop out of the hardship itself. Resilience is built through a number of supporting factors which surround the person going through the hardship. Most significantly – relationships. Through trusting, supportive adult-child relationships. Parents, teachers, school counsellors and school leadership – that’s us!

Harvard’s Centre on the Developing Child reports,

“The single most common factor for children who develop resilience is at least one stable and committed relationship with a supportive parent, caregiver, or other adult.”

No we can’t change COVID-19, but brushing off pain, belittling and ridiculing doesn’t build resilience, let alone connection. Rather, acknowledging, listening and finding healthy alternative pathways does. It’s in the safe spaces we create, that emotions should be allowed to surface and be heard. Places where young people can be vulnerable, yet completely and unconditionally accepted. Without these factors, the build up of hardships can be crushing instead of building.

So the question is, “How are we communicating support and care to our Year 12s, in the things that matter to them at the moment?”

 

Your and My Role 

Perhaps the Year 12s in our homes or classrooms simply need us to acknowledge that there have been many losses this year? That there are so many unknowns. That mask wearing everywhere can be unsettling and anxiety provoking for some. That fears or anxiety about the unknown and concerns about loss of job prospects, are normal responses. That some have felt (and still feel) lonely. Others continue to be worried about vulnerable family members. That missing out on the social events really sucks.

Perhaps all we need to do is lean in right now?  Lean in and show empathy. And then get a little creative with some Rites of Passage events.

 


Rites of Passage are Good for Us

When you are at school, everything builds up to the final year. Some major Rites of Passage events happen then. Essentially, it is normal for teenagers to look forward to these events as markers of maturity and gaining even more independence.

Cristine Legare, a researcher and psychology professor at the University of Texas, explains (here and here) that,

“Rituals are universal practices of human culture… (they) have social, psychological and instrumental functions… Rituals signify transition points in the individual life span and provide psychologically meaningful ways to participate in the beliefs and practices of the community….
Initiation rites are commonly found across cultures as a coming of age ritual to mark the time when adolescents enter adulthood”

So, our Years 12s need creative Rites of Passage this year.

 

What Schools Can Do 

Parents responses to me were quite mixed, in terms of schools Connection, Communication and Care during Covid-19 announcements.

Some schools have been completely on the ball and had a response drafted and sent out to families, by the time students arrived home after a government announcement (about closures, exams, formals, graduations and so on.) What broke my heart was reading that it took a week for some parents to hear anything from their child’s school (following media reports), and some who still (up to last Friday) haven’t heard a word about alternative celebrations from their school’s leadership.

I’ve worked in schools a long time and I know, without a doubt, that principals and teachers care for their students! That’s what they’re in the business of doing. They’re really doing their utmost to keep students safe. But if I might remind schools, your students and parents don’t know what’s happening behind the scenes if you don’t tell them. These issues for our Year 12s are not something to be silent on.

(Note to Parents: If you haven’t heard from your child’s school – ask.)

If, as a school, you are still trying to work out the details – perhaps say that? Let the parents and students know you are thinking of them and thinking of alternatives. But please don’t say nothing at all.

 

We need to keep in mind that:

  • no news raises anxiety and stress levels
  • these social events are a big part of maintaining wellbeing in this year group
  • schools need to keep communicating with parents and students on a regular basis
  • kind communication demonstrates care

 

Help Students Own Their Events

Perhaps schools could ask the students for their ideas? After all, they’re mostly legal adults this year. Show them that their opinions matter to you. Give your Year 12s the opportunity to brainstorm and participate in setting up their own ‘lasts.’ Not just the school prefects, but everyone that would like to be involved.

Some students will relish the chance to own these events for themselves. Or at least have a voice in the planning and executing of them. Of course you will get some outrageous ideas, but young people are amazing and creative when given the chance. This might be the most creative year yet!

 

The Creative Rites For Year 12s – That YOU Told Me About

Keepsakes and Treasures

One thing we can still do is produce keepsakes. e.g. Year 12 Jerseys (thankfully handed out at the start of the year) and year books, special signed photos and other souvenirs.

  • Photos: Although the more formal year group photos might have been cancelled, there is still an opportunity to take informal class or group photos. Someone suggested creative socially distanced photos (with masks on, spread out on the oval or waving from the banisters.)
  • Unique 2020 keepsakes: Kate Rayment, the principal of St Scholastica’s College in Glebe, told the SMH that she wanted to acknowledge the year like no other. She wanted the girls to remember it with pride and turned around, into something they can be proud of. Something that says, “We survived this.” So Kate has, “…given each year 12 student a commemorative badge, featuring the school’s crest encircled by symbols of the COVID age – hand-washing, social distancing, lockdown and sanitiser.”

  • Certificates: The Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta has also reported their plan to present a special certificate to every student in the Class of 2020, to acknowledge their resilience.
  • Journals: My colleague Sharon Witt has recently created Year 12 ISO Journals (Covering; gratitude, goals, kindness, connection, emotions and more). These can be purchased in boxes of 40. Wouldn’t this be an amazing keepsake gift for each Year 12 at your school?

 

Creative Event Alternatives for Year 12s

I love the ideas that I was sent by you!

I had many reports of formals and graduation dinners being postponed to late term 4, after finals and in hope that lockdowns will have eased somewhat. With many hoping that at least the year 12 student body and their teachers might attend (even if parents can’t attend the valedictory dinner).

Graduation assemblies are only a few weeks away and it is these that have students and parents anxious right now. However, at this stage, I am thrilled to hear that many schools are determined to honour the Year 12s in both formal and fun ways.

One Director of Pastoral Care is working closely with a parent committee of a Year 12 boys’ school and told me that they are still planning some extra activities for their final days of school.  Another public school has year 12 teachers and the principal involved in organising events.


Graduation ideas:

  • Some are having year 12s graduate via Zoom/video link, with parents connecting offsite and the rest of the school from other classrooms
  • One or two schools are considering holding back the formal graduation assembly, to one morning during the first week of term 4. (In Victoria and NSW there is approximately one week before final exams begin in term 4.)
  • Socially distanced outdoor graduation assemblies – should restrictions ease/change
  • A few schools have offered to film the graduation and then provide a copy to each family as a keepsake
  • Some will  ensure there is a good photo taken of each student
  • A Sydney public school and a private school reported plans to hold a modified ‘walk of fame’. Year 12s will walk along corridors, past classrooms, throughout the whole school, while students cheer and celebrate loudly. (One of my favourite Education journalists, Jordan Baker, wrote about her walk along ‘The Yellow Brick Road’)
  • Some schools have plans to have music playing, with balloons and decorations on classroom doors and corridors, to celebrate the year 12s graduation day

 

Fun last week events:

  • A final Year 12 fun assembly zoomed in to all other classes
  • One group of students are putting together a Year 12 video, including student and staff interviews, footage of the students over the years and possibly some fun skits
  • A socially distanced colour run, on the oval, for Year 12s only
  • An early BBQ dinner in their final week – where students can come together on the school premises
  • House farewells
  • Year 12 volleyball/soccer games on the oval
  • A special Year 12 Chapel service
  • Socially distanced picnics on the oval – BYO food
  • A last day Year 12 breakfast
  • ‘Kiss and Ride’ pick up  – where parents drive up to the school gate, with cars decorated with balloons and streamers. There will be a loud speaker and students announced as parents pull up
  • Students photographed climbing into the car, with parents hanging out of the windows at final day pick up
  • Parents taking students out to tea, lunch or dinner to celebrate the end of school
  • Small ‘pods’ of students getting together at a local restaurant or for beach walks to celebrate among themselves.

 

A word on Schoolies week:

Love it or hate, for many students ‘Schoolies’ represents a time to relax and unwind after a long year. When it goes well (and it often can), young people get to book a place, shop for food, cook and clean for themselves, and enjoy a holiday with good friends. All before more adult responsibilities begin the following year. This year might look different, but if a week away camping, glamping or flatting is something your young adult child is considering, perhaps you could help them find ways to support local tourism and do a laid back week away this year?

Last Thoughts

Rites of Passage are really about building memories, signifying milestones and progression to new phases of our lives. 2020 is a year that will never be forgotten.

These memories, their unique send off, their passage into the adult world, however crazy, will be part of this group’s unique end of schooling.

There is still so much potential to make joyful, meaningful and Hope-filled memories in the next few weeks.  Let’s send every class of 2020 off with a sense of exuberant triumph!

 

Let us know what your school is doing…

 

 

 

 

 

9 Practical Ways to Support Anxious Kids Return to School

by Collett Smart

9 Ways to Support Kids who are Anxious about School

The relaxing and lifting of restrictions in schools makes it sound like we’re on our way back to normal, yet ‘normal’ is a long way off. And our children know it.

 

If you chatted to a group of 6 teens and asked, “How did you find life in lockdown?”, you would likely get 6 different answers. Some kids thrived – more down time, more outdoor activity, more able to work independently, more family connection, less noise, less distraction, less COVID infection to worry about, less playground bullying.

Others struggled – less face-to-face connection, less part-time work, less sport, more distraction, more of a struggle to work independently, more exposure to family issues, more online bullying.

Equally, if you asked, “How are you feeling about the return to school?”, you would get 6 different answers. My tween was busting to get back to school. Others, not so much.

We need to be particularly aware of students who have anxiety or have struggled with school refusal in the past. These young people will be more anxious about returning to school in the coming weeks.

Returning to public transport or the school premises itself might be stressful, if young people are worried about contracting the virus. In this time, it could be the separation from the safety of home and their trusted adults that is at the core of school anxiety.


First Steps

Begin by assuming they may be struggling and then proceed with gentleness and compassion.

A UNICEF survey of Australian high schoolers found that less than half say they are coping well. In April, boys (52%) were found to be coping slightly better than girls (38%), but it would be good to remember that boys often don’t tell us they are struggling. As someone on my Facebook page said – They show us.

UNICEF expects these figures to worsen by June. June is when most students are expected to be back in classrooms.

“Australia’s young people have been cut off from social support networks, must complete major education milestones online, and are also impacted by job losses, either themselves or their parents and carers. All of this is taking a toll on their mental health and their hope for the future.” UNICEF Australia

The response of schools and parents can make all the difference in maintaining our children’s mental wellbeing going forward. Having them get back to school is going to be really important, but their return needs to be managed sensitively.


Don’t worry about learning right now

Learning is easier when kids feel safe. Learning is difficult when your tween’s brain is emotionally overloaded and preoccupied with fears. If we work to create a sense of rest and peace, then the learning will eventually come.

Some anxiety is normal 

It is normal for young people to have fears about the danger and threat of a virus. Remind your child that it is their brain’s way of encouraging them to do things that look after their own and others’ health (like maintaining good hygiene and an appropriate physical distance).


Observe

Some young people don’t have the words to let you know how they are feeling, so we have to be attuned to subtle changes. You know your child best and will know when your own tweens and teens deviate from their usual patterns.

Then, be on the look out for physical signs or behaviours that are out of the ordinary.

 

Signs your Child is Anxious about Returning to School


Physical signs

  • Stomach aches, headaches, saying they feel sick
  • Changes in appetite
  • Changes in sleep habits (sleeping more or less, struggling to fall asleep or wake up)

 

Behavioural signs

  • Avoiding or refusing to do things they would usually do (connect with others, chores, exercise etc.)
  • Withdrawal from friends or family
  • Seeking constant reassurance from a parent
  • Trying to get a parent to do something for them that they should be able to do themselves
  • Getting easily upset over seemingly small matters
  • Lashing out, easily angered or displaying more irritability
  • Becoming easily frustrated with things
  • Displaying avoidance of certain places – buses, areas at school or school itself (once school starts)

 

9 Ways to Support Kids who are Anxious about School

1.   Connect 

Many parents ask me how they can get their teen to open up and talk. The answer lies in your connection with them. Just enjoy being with your child, doing day-to-day tasks or a few fun activities. Sometimes side-by-side, without eye contact works well. Tune in when your teen begins to talk and express their thoughts.

Connection soothes stressed brains and provides a sense of a secure attachment, which is important for healthy emotional well-being.

 

2.   Listen

  • Allow emotional expression. Emotional health requires emotional expression. It helps your child to have someone who will listen to them.
  • Remind your tween that you are safe for them to vent to. Their home is the safe space to express their feelings.
  • Give them enough time to express their feelings.
  • Acknowledge the frustration, fear or sadness they are experiencing – without giving answers.
  • Encourage your teen to name their emotion (as sometimes they don’t understand why they lashed out at the dog).

 

3.   Emotional support ideas

  • Make space for tears and frustration – Tears can be helpful in releasing stress or anxiety.
  • Limit worry time to a specific time of day where they can spend 10–15 minutes spilling out the worries, sadness or frustrations that their mind got stuck on during the day. (Talk, draw, journal or use a worry app or worry box to place written worries into.) When the time is up, the box/app/book gets closed and put away. This gives your child reassurance and validation that their thoughts matter, but also that they don’t have to listen to their brain’s fears all the time.
  • Use an Emotion Thermometer to help your tween communicate the level of their feelings.
  • Focus on courage. Help your teen to think about times they were courageous or dealt with their worry effectively. Ask, “How could you use any of those strategies again?” (Also see Thought Challenging)

 

4.   Thought challenging

  • This involves challenging the, ‘what ifs’. For example, take a negative or unhelpful thought that triggers anxiety and flip it into a thought that is more helpful and builds courage. Such as, “What if I go to school and my friends have forgotten me?”, could flip to, “What if I go to school and have fun connecting with my friends again?”.
  • During ‘worry time’ ask how they might change worried thinking into more realistic thinking by asking, ‘What are the facts?’, ‘What could I do to cope with X when I get worried?”

 

5.   In Conversation 

  • Keep your voice calm. Think of it like taking your child through a fire drill. You need to communicate potentially alarming information in a factual, non-alarming, matter-of-fact way.
  • Don’t sugarcoat. Keep explanations factual but age appropriate, but don’t try to minimise their fears. This will help young people to understand what is going on and cope better.
  • Don’t minimise their fears – Children mistrust us when we simply say,  “Oh, everything is going to be okay”,  because they know you can’t guarantee this. You could say, “My job is to look after you. What can I do to support/help you in this?”
  • Avoid excessive reassurance. Again, statements like, “Don’t worry” or “You will be okay” are unhelpful. Try asking questions that draw on the Emotional Support Ideas discussed above. Like, “Is there something you can do at school that will help you reach out for support?”
  • For anxious kids, talk through and then help them plan their own steps of getting back into the school routine.
  • Show support for the school and teachers in front of your child – express the positives in the changes their school has made. It is important that your tween trusts their teacher when they return. (If you are working through concerns with the school, direct your concerns to the appropriate adults there.)
  • Model how to deal with stressful situations in a calm manner.
  • Please seek mental health support if re-entry into school and life is making your child extremely anxious.

 

6.   Small steps

Start with small steps. Perhaps focus on a plan for the first week’s routine  – waking up, eating and going to bed at regular times. Online schooling has helped some with this already.

 

7.   Physical strategies

Some kids might need these strategies for a while, even once school starts.

  • Teach belly breathing at a time your child is calm. This is a relaxation response. When their fight-or-flight response kicks in, deep breathing helps dial it down.
  • Massage and safe touch also help calm our children.
  • Physical activity improves mental health.
  • Include lots of breaks and relaxing activities that foster a sense of satisfaction and fulfilment in your child. (Insist on less homework initially, as some children will need down time after school for a while).

 

8.   Encourage Social engagement

Ease back into social activities for non-social and neurodiverse kids. Go slowly and don’t expect too much too soon. Talk to the school about reduced hours initially, as some children will need time to build up to being in noisy, visually stimulating and crowded rooms/playgrounds again.

 

9.   Dream a little

Begin a vision board or a vision journal. Either as a family or with a teen who enjoys this type of activity. Otherwise let everyone have a chance to dream at the dinner table – about activities they would like to do and places they would like to go, in the next year or two. This brings a sense of Hope.

 

One Last Thought

Once school starts full time, let your child have some quiet space after school. Be ready with a favourite drink, a warm bath or something that your child finds soothing. Use tangible strategies to communicate home as a place of rest and recovery.

 

 

 

 

 

Ideas to Manage T(w)een Anxiety About COVID-19

by Collett Smart

Ideas to Manage Teen Anxiety About COVID-19

Like many reading this, I am a parent (I have 3 children, one already an adult) – and the talk of COVID-19 has been part of our daily conversation in the last weeks. Especially since the flow of information (and misinformation) has picked up. It’s difficult to ignore isn’t it? Reports are everywhere. On every screen, in every feed, every board meeting, work site and school staff meeting. I think many of us have vacillated between the ‘what nows?’ and the ‘what ifs?

 

We know that we can’t shield our tweens and teens, because they will hear about it anyway, from peers, siblings, online… But how much is too much information? And what is age appropriate? How do we help our teens and tweens manage their anxiety about COVID-19? How do we steer away from the fear?

 

As a Start

Model

Even teenagers look to the adults in their lives for behavioural cues. They learn from us about how concerned they should be about anything unknown or new. Even without words, our behaviour can inadvertently create a climate of distress in our homes. So it is important that we have support people to turn to, if we are feeling anxious ourselves.


Normalise Anxiety

Concern for the unknown or some new disease is a perfectly normal reaction. Encourage your children that not all anxiety is bad. It is our brain’s brilliant way of keeping us safe from and alert to danger. Anxiety works like an alarm system, which prompts us to think of ways to look after ourselves.

It’s just that an oversensitive alarm system can lead us to irrational thoughts and fears, which affect our healthy daily functioning. So how do we keep this alarm system in check, during this time? (I’ll get to that soon…)


Monitor your child

Even within developmental stages, children will display differences in how they respond to certain pieces of news or information. Just because your tween does not verbalise that they feel anxious (they may not even recognise anxiety in themselves), does not mean they are not struggling with something they have heard.

You know your child best, so looks for signs that they are not doing well. I.e. regression, sleep issues (struggling to fall asleep, waking up in the night and worrying, nightmares), changes in appetite, changes in behaviour (acting out, withdrawal, bouts of crying for seemingly small things), separation anxiety (not wanting to go to school, usual activities or to be left alone), sudden headaches or tummy aches and drop in school performance.

 

What to Say

Be proactive

At this time, it is a good idea to be proactive. Start by finding out what your child has heard and what they know, before launching into too many details.

This can be done by asking open ended questions like, “Can you tell me what you heard about that?”

You can also ask specifically if they have any fears or concerns. Keep in mind that your t(w)een’s primary response to ‘scary’ or unknown news can often be emotional, rather than intellectual.

The real question behind their question is usually, “Am I safe?”

 

This is the most important bit – Listen well!

When your kids come home with stories from a classmate who said that you or grandma might die, this could be the underlying fear of the COVID-19 stories, for them.

Rather than simply saying, “Oh, I’ll be fine.” or “That’s a silly thing to say.”  or, “Just forget about it.” – acknowledge the emotion with something like, “That must have felt scary to hear.” or  “That must have worried you.” Do lots of listening. Ask more open ended questions and then listen some more. Even if your teens’s question or fear seems ‘silly’ to you – don’t minimise.

If it is important to them it should be important to you. This helps your child feel heard and develops a sense that you care about them.

 

How Much to Say

Tailor your approach to each child’s age, maturity level, ability to process information and exposure to reports about the virus. Molly Gardner, a paediatric psychologist told TIME magazine, “Being informed and being anxious are two different things… The more we beat around the bush with kids, the more they might get confused.”


Preteens and teens

With most very young children, we know that shielding is the best option, but older children and teens have more exposure to current events. I have written before, that adults can sometimes assume their teens are coping with the overload of media reported trauma – while quietly – they are imploding. For many teens, their imaginations (fuelled by sometimes unreliable social media reported trauma and a constant stream of graphic images) can magnify the events to even greater levels of terror.

Our tweens and teens can usually cope with frank discussions. Again, stick to the facts. However, highlighting the misinformation and hype, represented in some media reports, can teach young people to become more critical media users themselves. Find realistic and trusted news sources that your family can follow. Brainstorm with teens, some practical steps to follow.

 

What to Do

A study about empowering families during a healthcare crisis recommends the CARE approach:

Choices
Agenda
Resilience
Emotional Support

 

Engaging the CARE principles (not necessarily in this order) helps young people and families feel empowered. It reduces, and may even improve the risk of anxiety and trauma responses.

(1) CHOICES – Offer power in a powerless environment

This might look like:

  • Channelling their anxiety into useful action. i.e. everyone can do something to help slow the spread of disease, using hand sanitiser, by coughing into your elbow, washing your hands regularly.
  • Distraction – because when we fixate on negative information our anxiety grows. Yet, if we turn our attention to healthy activities, it shrinks. Ask your child to choose some healthy distraction activities, e.g. Doing their homework, remaining physically active, cuddling a pet, playing a board game or watching a favourite show.
  • Encouraging teens to take a break from, or at least limit exposure to, news and social media reports on the virus.

(2) AGENDA – Let children and families know what to expect and what is expected of them.
  • This could be by explaining the school’s plan for learning, if the school were to close for a few weeks. (Final year students might be especially anxious about this).
  • Think about what activities they could do during this time (both academic and for relaxation).
  • If your child is disappointed that a scheduled event has been cancelled, just listen. Let them vent.
  • Explain what ‘physical distancing’ (social distancing) means, and why ‘flattening the curve‘ is an important part of government decisions.
  • Then talk about what steps you would take if a family member did contract the virus (because kids are wondering about this!) What is your family plan?

(3) RESILIENCE – Highlight strengths and reframe negatives
  • Research suggests that teenagers feel better when they turn their attention to supporting others during difficulty. There is great power in volunteering.
  • Talk about what ‘love in action’ looks like in a time like this. Think about what you would do to support grandparents, family members or neighbours who are vulnerable or have a disability. E.g. Collect and drop off food parcels, toiletries and medicines.
  • Model mindfulness and gratitude (without minimising teens’ concerns)
  • Find current examples of ‘helpers’. Like the one about 19-year-old NBL star Zion Williamson’s incredible act of kindness.

My favourite quote on reframing negatives is by Fred Rogers,

Ideas to Manage Tween Anxiety About COVID-19

 


(4) EMOTIONAL SUPPORT – Recognise and normalise common fears and responses
  • Keep providing daily emotional first aid. Check in on how your children are feeling.
  • Remind them you are there to listen to any questions or concerns.
  • Some young people find that their faith brings them great comfort, in times of crisis. Support them in this.
  • You might like to help your t(w)een begin a daily (short term) journal or worry box, where they can write down their fears. Then be sure to balance these with something from principles 1, 2 and 3.

 

One last thought – Find Some Humour

Humour can often highlight the craziness of humanity, but also normalise our response to the unknown. There are so many toilet paper memes going around. See who can find the best one.

 

 

 

 

 

 


My Interview on Channel 7

 

 

 

 

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