Back to school – coping with the new normal

Anyone who brushed off the impact of the Covid pandemic on teenagers back in the spring (is it just us who were massively irritated by all those smug social posts?) is surely thinking again, after the nightmare of the A level results and the massive uncertainty about going back to school.

Usually at this time of year, we’re focused on shopping for pencil cases and new uniform, supervising the finishing of holiday homework (ha, who are we kidding – the starting of holiday homework in a mad panic) and packing in as many last minute trips and social gatherings as we can.

This year, we’re waiting for emails from school telling us basic details on when to arrive and what to expect, and worrying about how it’s all going to work. And the biggest worry of all is how our kids are going to cope.

We asked a small group of teens going back to school how they felt about the ‘new normal’. We’ve had some great feedback from this generation on dealing with Covid and its impact on mental health and, as always, it was reassuring to hear just how calm, practical and positive many of them are feeling: 

“I would say I’m very excited to get back to school. It will be good to see everyone again after such a long time away. I’ll look forward to having a purpose and routine again, rather than just staying at home doing nothing. I don’t think it will be much different to before the virus, other than washing our hands more often or putting on hand gel.” 
“Overall, I’m happy to get back to lessons as taking exams next year is my main concern. I’m pretty excited to get back and I don’t really care how it’s going to be different. I just hope all the extra-curricular stuff is still possible and the food isn’t worse.”
 “I don’t think there’s much point worrying. The teachers are going to tell us what we have to do and we’re going to have to do it. We just have to suck it up.”

 But of course there were concerns:

“I don’t really see how it will work because the more we’re kept away from our friends in school the more we’ll see them outside. It would be better to control social distancing by keeping as much as possible on site.” 
“It’s all change, and the unknown.. I really don’t know what to expect.”

 

If you have a worried teenager on your hands, here’s some great advice to pass on from the APA, about how to cope with uncertainty and ‘the great unknown’: 

  • Be kind to yourself. Some people are just better at dealing with uncertainties than others, so don’t worry if you find it harder to cope with than others. Remind yourself that it might take time for anything much to change, and be patient with yourself in the meantime.
  • Reflect on past successes. You are bound to have encountered stressful situations in the past—and you survived! Give yourself credit and recognise your strength. 
  • Avoid dwelling on things you can’t control. When uncertainty is all around, it’s easy to imagine the worst. Try not to think too much about negative outcomes that might well not happen.
  • Take your own advice. Ask yourself: if one of my friends came to me with these concerns, what would I tell them? This can help provide perspective and positivity.
  • Look after yourself. Don’t let worry change your healthy routines. Make an extra effort to eat well, exercise, and get enough sleep. 
  • Seek support from those you trust. Many people try and deal with it all themselves when they’re stressed or worried. But it’s more important than ever to talk to family and friends at these times.
  • Control what you can. Focus on the things that are within your control –  even simple daily plans and routines will help. 
  • Ask for help. If you’re having trouble coping with uncertainty on your own, ask for help. There are so many brilliant resources out there; don’t be afraid to admit you need to think about using them.

 And it’s important to say that being worried about this is nothing to be ashamed of. The first strategy from Unicef in their excellent article “6 strategies for teens facing a new (temporary) normal” is:

1. Recognise that your anxiety is completely normal

If school closures and alarming headlines are making you feel anxious, you are not the only one. In fact, that’s how you’re supposed to feel. “Psychologists have long recognised that anxiety is a normal and healthy function that alerts us to threats and helps us take measures to protect ourselves,” says Dr. Damour. “Your anxiety is going to help you make the decisions that you need to be making right now.” Those feelings are helping to keep not only you safe, but others too. This is “also how we take care of members of our community. We think about the people around us, too.”

We wish everyone going back to school (especially if you’re starting a new school!) all the luck in the world. We hope that within a few days, it will feel completely natural and you’ll only have your homework to worry about…



Let us know how you get on!

Louise & Anna x

 

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