Returning to school after the long summer break can sometimes be linked to feelings of worry or anxiety for children and young people. These feelings are normal and to be expected, but adults who support children and young people can also provide guidance to make this time easier.
Image description: A photo of a teacher talking to children in a classroom.
So, how can you help the children and young people in your life?
A solution focused approach is a positive and effective way of supporting children and young people. It is based on the idea that an individual can learn how to cope with challenging things by co-constructing goals and solutions from existing strengths and external resources. It allows an individual to focus on the future (i.e., progressing through school) rather than what the problem is, or it's causes. Further key features of a solution focused approach, grounded in Solution Focused Brief Therapy, include active listening and the use of positive language. The ultimate aim of this approach is to cultivate a positive change in our perceptions of situations and problems, leading to actions that make positive change possible.
Here in the SPRINT Project, we adopt a solution focused approach when delivering our interventions and training and we have found that this enables individuals to feel empowered, supported, and confident. You can download our Mental Skills Training Toolkit delivery guide here, where we explain in more detail how to use a solution-focused approach in programmes that support young people.
You can help children and young people who are worried about returning to school by supporting them to understand their feelings, and to use certain strategies that are solution focused.
Reframing is a particularly useful strategy that involves thinking about feelings and situations that are perceived as problematic or negative in a different, positive way. As a parent or guardian, you might hear your child express worries about returning to school. For example, about schoolwork becoming harder, perhaps with associated physiological feelings such as butterflies in the stomach. To support your child, you can acknowledge and validate their worries, and suggest or explain that such thoughts and feelings can mean we are making positive progress in something and that it is important to us.
We have included some other examples of tools and strategies below.
What If/Then planning is a tool that allows an individual to explore their feelings around a certain situation, and plan how they may cope with it. You can access a free interactive What If/Then resource via our webpages here.
When an individual is feeling particularly upset or anxious, grounding techniques are an effective tool that can ease difficult emotions in the moment and build resilience. Examples of grounding techniques are deep breathing, giving yourself a big bear hug and counting backwards from 100. Access free grounding infographics via our webpages here.
Image description: A photo of a parent walking their children to school.
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Photo credit: Canva.
Written by Dr Sally Reynard, Research Associate in the SPRINT Project.