With schools going back this week, teens are feeling a big mix of feelings – excitement to see their friends, worry about academic challenges, not to mention the ongoing pandemic. It’s completely normal for your teen to be feeling a bit anxious – it’s been weeks, if not months, since they last stepped through the school doors. As a parent, you’ll naturally want to help them ease their worries in these first few weeks of term. To help you out, we had a chat with MeeTwo, an NHS-approved peer support app for teens, about how you can help your child settle back into school as smoothly as possible. Here’s what they had to say:
Going back to school after the holidays is the biggest single cause of anxiety that we see on MeeTwo and friendships and social interactions are the main driver of that. While on holiday young people have more control over their social interactions. They can choose who to see and who not to see. There is less risk of being shown up in front of peers or of having to conform to perceived peer expectations. Lockdown and social isolation will inevitably exacerbate this anxiety. Many young people have barely left their bedrooms, let alone their houses and friendship groups have contracted. We are already seeing discussions about how young people will cope with the crowded noisy environment of school and of how to reinstate friendships that might have been neglected.
Another worry is the fear of failure. Most young people feel acutely aware of the reduced provision of education during lockdown and many find it hard to judge their level of progress against others. Our users are concerned that they won’t be able to catch up and fear being seen as a failure.
Although not directly a worry, we have seen an increase in the number of posts about difficulty with sleeping. As is common during the holidays young people are getting up and staying up later. This has gone on for so many months now that going back to school will be a bit like entering a new time zone.
Teenagers are known for seeking independence and pushing their parents away – it’s a normal part of growing up. But in doing this we can see that many young people then feel isolated and ignored. The most useful support that a parent can give is to create opportunities to listen to your son or daughter, without judgement and often without even needing to offer any advice. Take their concerns seriously. What might seem trivial for an adult may be overwhelming for a young person who doesn’t have the benefit of hindsight. Walks or car journeys can provide great listening opportunities. Family meals, with no TV or devices, are also good to encourage conversation.
“What might seem trivial for an adult may be overwhelming for a young person who doesn’t have the benefit of hindsight”
Research shows that teenagers often trust the advice of their peers more than parents or adult experts. Peer networks are an important source of reassurance and support. As a parent you can encourage your teenager to reconnect with their friends with socially distant picnics and other activities on the weekends.
You can also recommend MeeTwo as a safe place to talk anonymously and in confidence to other young people. It’s recommended by over 1,000 UK schools and every post and reply is checked by moderators and counsellors to ensure that users get useful, safe support.
Even the most confident of us fears failure and anxiety, and extreme stress is proven to inhibit a person’s ability to focus and retain information. Some learning time has been lost but everyone is in the same situation and schools and exam boards are looking at the best ways to help students get back on track. As a parent you can reassure your child that they will catch up and this period won’t define their future success. Most importantly, encourage your teenagers to seek support before problems begin to escalate. This can be done by talking to you, using apps like MeeTwo or reaching out to a friend or trusted teacher.
One of the best ways for a young person to improve their wellbeing is to share how they are feeling. MeeTwo‘s award-winning app makes it easy to talk about difficult things, and to get support. They give young people the tools to help themselves, and each other. It’s completely safe as all posts and replies are checked by human moderators before they go live, and in-house counsellors provide extra support if needed. For more information visit www.meetwo.co.uk.
The Secret Life of the Teenage Brain, Prof Sarah-Jayne Blakemore
Teen Mental Health: a Guide for Parents, MyTutor blog