Recognising that we may be a little more on the stressed side this week with Scotland’s schools returning is really important. It can help us to regulate ourselves and, in turn, regulate our teens and tweens. This week’s announcements of how schools will return has indeed brought up some mixed feelings for our young people.

Have you noticed any changes in their behaviour? Are they demotivated?, Sleeping more or less? Bored more than usual? Or are they more agitated? Unable to sit and enjoy tasks? Or are they relaxed about it? 

In my house I noticed some changes that got me thinking of where their heads are at with the return of schools. I asked my eldest daughter to check in with herself and write down what came up for her. I encouraged her to consider how she feels about school and what she would like adults to be aware of from a young person’s perspective. This is what she had to say:

“From my perspective as a 15 year old returning to school, I want to say I am both excited and terrified at once. Going to school is hard work on a good day but we are now constantly being told we need to ‘catch up’. I worked through a lot of work during the lockdown so can’t understand why there is such a big push. I worry because teachers are stressed going back just like we are, but this means I argue with teachers when I don’t mean to. They are stressed and don’t see that I am too.

Friendships over lockdown have drifted away and the summer holidays seemed to make that worse not better. It’s like starting again in First year, thinking of who you can walk with, sit with, talk to, because we don’t know anymore.I have always loved school but its such hard work emotionally because its such a toxic environment. The girls are under pressure to look the same, act the same and you are picked on if you are not. The boys are expected to love sports and act like idiots in class, and they are picked on if they stray from it. People cannot express themselves freely without being judged, it hurts to know that you are not good enough to everyone. The judgement hurts people in ways we don’t even see.

Lockdown helped people find their own paths, many becoming more comfortable in their own skin and their own likes and dislikes, but that now makes you very anxious about returning to school and having to fit back in. Socialising in school is hard work and really draining. So when i come home all i want to do is be on my own to recharge, i think i will even fall asleep after a school day. So, my hope is that when you read my letter you understand some of the worries we have and that although school is a short day, it feels really long for us because we have so much going on inside.

I know I am happy about going to school but I am just as stressed that I feel sick about it too. I know I am not alone in feeling like this, there are many many more just like me.”

My daughter wrote this last night and gave her permission for this to be shared because her anxiety has started to interfere with her sleep patterns. She is struggling to go to sleep now. I now understand its because she is carrying so much worry and anxiety within her body. 
We all remember the nerves of school and the need to fit in but when reading what she wrote this morning, it was a stark reminder that things haven’t changed much.  

Now, What can we do to support them?  

When it comes to the school week, golly is it stressful. We are constantly “on” at them in mornings. “Do you have this? Do you have that? Get your shoes on, and are your teeth brushed?”. We can get so caught up in the organisation of a school day that we often forget that their anxiety is such that they cant process simple instructions and they have their own mental list going on too. It might not align with the mental list we have. 

So what helps us, so that we can help them?
 Organisation:  It is always great if you are an organiser. I salute you! I am awful at organisation but there are some people who can organise everything the night before. Have lunches ready and clothes sat out, have your teens and tweens find an organisational system that works for them too. Explore what would work for both you and them.

 Lower expectations: We all want our children to gain the best from the opportunities around them, but how often do we ask them what they hope to gain from their experience of school? Try to understand from their perspective: they may not be aiming for all A’s or maybe they are. They might be at school purely for academic reasons, other kids aren’t. They may only be there because we send them. Learning happens every day, and no matter how long it takes, they do come to apply themselves to the things that matter to them. 

The Art of Pause: When it seems like the day is starting to fall apart before its even begun, take a breath. 90 seconds pause is all it takes. Deep breath in, Deep breath out. Inviting yourself to pause supports your pre frontal cortex (thinking brain) to come back online. Invite your young person to do the same, helping them to regulate and slow down. We cant think straight when we are in a heightened state of stress so that 90 seconds just gives you time to slow down. If you have time have a cup of tea in the morning with your young person, it supports them to slow their processes down too and communicate in a way that helps you support them.  

Be Curious
Here at Potential in Me , we often use the phrase ‘be curious’. So we invite you to have a conversation this week, be curious about how our young people think and how they feel about the transition back into school. 

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