They may have started this year with excitement and nervousness about the final year of school. You were getting ready to launch your child into the world. There were driving lessons, formals, university open days, study plans, subject choices, the beginning of such a wonderful adventure. Then on March 11th the World Health Organisation warned us that the world was about to change, very fast, and with no regard to the meaningful details, or the importance of this year - to you and your Year 12 student.
The grief, the stress, and even the change in learning context may strongly impact your childs ability to learn and remember. You can support your independent home learner to lower stress and accept their learning environment, in turn allowing them to grow, and develop the new skills needed to navigate the change in this new, albeit temporary, Covid-19 world.
Your child is probably feeling many emotions right now. This was supposed to be "their year", none of their expectations have been met and in many ways they have lost some control of their environment. You may find in daily conversations that you can help your child to identify the factors of this situation that they cannot control and the thoughts and responses that they can.
They may begin to notice that there are many more things they can control than the ones that they cannot. It is worth considering that any effort spent on the things that cannot be controlled is really a waste of energy, it will go nowhere. Instead ask yourself "what will I control today?".
"What will I control today?"
You can't control the restriction of no face-to-face classes You can control how you set up your space and time for home learning You can't control your party being cancelled You can control who you talk to You can seek help if you have difficulties with the lesson You can take a break if you need it You can eat healthily so your body feels good You can exercise to clear your mind You can ask for extra work if you feel you can push yourself further You can initiate video study groups with your friends You can schedule time to switch off You cant do the same social events you could before You can look forward to doing them when this has passed You can create new ways to stay connected You can't control when your end of year exams will be You can control how you use the extra time to prepare You can't control how your ATAR will be calculated You can do the best that you can
2. Room to Grieve
Grief can give meaning to the important people and events in our life that we have lost. Grief can come from heartbreak and bitter disappointment. It can appear as rage from the unfairness of a loss. The grieving process frees up the energy that was attached to the lost ideal so it can be reinvested in other areas.
As parents you instinctively want to lift your child out of the wallow of despair but it is important to acknowledge that these feelings are normal, natural and completely warranted. You can ask them if they'd like to make a time to grieve in the day. Make a time where your Year 12 student can complain, rant, cry, be alone, snuggle on your lap, whatever they need. During this time you can tell them that you empathise and that you can hear how hard this is for them. You can tell them that they are doing so well, but try not to "solve" the problem, instead let this time be their chance to air their feelings of injustice and disappointment.
Creating routine is a good way to move through the stages of grief, you can support this routine and be sure to acknowledge their achievement as they move through too.
"Let them air their feelings of injustice and disappointment"
3. Relaxation Training
Footballers do fitness training for the game. Ballet dancers rehearse dance sequences for a performance. Clear thinkers practice feeling calm in their body and mind to see things clearly under pressure.
Mindfulness, meditation and relaxation techniques are all useful tools in times of stress. I often hear the complaint of "not being able to do it". These practices take time to develop. There is no one way that suits everyone, but there is a correct resource that you and your year 12 student can work towards... feeling calm.
Take some time to breathe - quiet, gentle breaths, notice the temperature, sound, when and how they change from in to out.
Feel your feet on the ground - focus on how it feels, check in with all your senses and be curious about the colours, shapes, textures, sounds etc.
Close your eyes and focus on what you want to happen today, how you want to feel or your goal/objective. Don't worry about how you will get there, just on how it will feel when you do.
Do a meditation class or see a clinical hypnotherapist for practices that will suit you personally.
Use Yoga or Tai chi to connect with your body.
"Feel, See, Hear, Smell, Taste... and Breathe"
4. This Will Pass
Remind your child that this will pass. They will get through this. Time will not stop and whatever steps they take, the days will roll on and this year will be complete. It will be okay. Ask them questions that allow them to dream. Ask them what it will be like when they have successfully completed Year 12? What will it feel like? What will they be most proud of? What are they most looking forward to? How will they celebrate?
Play the future game. (A little Neuro-Linguistic Programming trick for fun.)
Close your eyes and be there now. Be there in your future now. You have achieved all you want to achieve this year. You have that feeling of relief that it is done, and satisfaction in the outcome. Breathe it in. Imagine what you are wearing, where you are going, who you are with. Feel how it feels to already be there now. Give yourself some time to really feel that now...
Now, imagine that you can look back and see yourself today as though today is in the past. I wonder what you know in this future that you don't know back then. I wonder, now that you know it, if you could tell yourself what it was that you needed to know? Would you feel better about what lies in the space between then (today) and now (your successful future)? I wonder if just knowing what it will feel like to be successful is all that you needed to know. I can imagine that if you had to give back that knowledge that you have now, there would be no way you would let it be taken from you. I am sure you would much rather feel this successful every step of the way...
Now put those feelings on like an invisible jacket. You can wear that success every day now, and while no-one will see the jacket, everyone will see that you are.
"Feel how it feels to already be there now"
5. Be interested
In a time where we have fewer personal interactions, now your child needs you more than ever. So be interested without being meddlesome. Ask how they are finding all this. How do they feel? And be sure to ask how you can help. What resources or support do they need? Ask your child what you can do to make them feel comfortable, safe and loved. Maybe its cutting up an apple the way you used to when they were 6. Maybe its bringing them a pot of peppermint tea. Maybe they like to read their work to you, have you quiz them, or perhaps you can best support them by giving them the space they need.
Be interested in what they want to share, and be interested in how they are choosing to navigate this time. Show genuine interest in how they are feeling, what they are discovering and what they are learning. Be okay in the times where their anger comes up. Anger masks many emotions. Rather than taking offense or responding in anger yourself, find yourself wondering where or why it might be coming up. Listen with an open mind and a welcoming heart. (graphic from the Gottman Institute)
This is still a special time. This is still their year. Make the concessions that you planned to make, and spoil them as you had thought you would. There may never be a class of isolation again. You can love, you can be present and you can handle this.
If you or your child is overwhelmed by stress or anxiety at this time, if you find your child is losing self belief, feels fearful of exams or has trouble with study retention, hypnotherapy may be a useful support now. Family Hypnotherapy offers online video consultations at this time and we are always happy to talk about how we may be able to help you.