©2020 Mary Hickey and Seamus Whitney
Seamus recently spoke on South East Radio about the stress and uncertainty that students entering 6th year in 2020 are currently experiencing. To address this I have compiled a short blog that should be of interest to students and parents of this cohort.
The theme that is arising from our work with these students is anxiety surrounding a whole range of concerns. Questions these students are asking are;
- will their school year be disrupted due to further Covid 19 restrictions?
- how can they improve their ability to learn from online classes?
- will they be able to make up the time they lost in 5th year?
- will they have the opportunity to sit Leaving Certificate Exams at the end of 6th year?
In addition they also have the added concerns that their parents may not be in a position to finance their college course (this is a concern many students have but even more so now due to job loss / restricted working hours in households).
It goes without saying these times are equally as or more challenging for parents. Some households are finding it more challenging than others to address the above concerns and anxiety is feeding anxiety.
What can we do to ease the anxiety that this group may be experiencing?
It is my genuine believe that if a young person voices such concerns as mentioned above they need to be addressed. Do not offer flippant advice such as “what have you got to worry about sure it will all be sorted out by such and such a time”. This type of response is in no way helpful and will only lead to increasing anxiety and the mindset of not being taken seriously.
Acknowledge their concerns, sit with them either face to face or side by side (sometimes face to face is too much for young people), get them to write down their concerns, and go through these concerns one at a time. Acknowledge that as a parent you don’t have all the answers immediately but that you will carry out some research and do your best to provide some answers (speak to teachers and other parents and use their expertise to get information). As a parent don’t be afraid to ask for help. Conduct research with your child get them active in coming up with possible solutions.
Should your area go into lockdown once more, your child may fear the onslaught of online learning again, particularly if it has not worked for them before (it’s a common occurrence unfortunately). Have a tentative plan in place; maybe an older sibling or cousin etc can help them with this subject. This gives the student reassurance and confidence. Stress the advantages relating to learning online, as we all know that online learning will also prepare this student cohort for future college life.
Speak with teachers and principals to get guidance on how they intend to make up for lost time in 5th year. Check out online resources that might help with this for example https://leavingcertmindmaps.ie/.
Many colleges are offering virtual open days, maybe look these up on line and book the young person in. If some of their friends could book in at the same time it would make the experience more comfortable for the young person.
We have to remain positive in the face of adversity and prepare this group of students for the exams they will be sitting next year. There are no certainties here but we have to plan and work towards these exams. So encouragement, realistic study plans and time tables are important. Instill positive reinforcement for their work ethic. Don’t let study or lack of it be the only item that you communicate with your child about. Remember your relationship and mutual interests before they entered 6th year. This is probably even more important now.
If your child mentions they are worried about family finances have the conversation with them. They may make a flippant comment such as ‘what’s the point in me studying sure you have no money to send me to college’. Or indeed they may show an unusual interest in getting a job. They may not say it directly to you but may say it to a sibling or maybe when you are encouraging them to study. This is very hard for a parent to hear. Be honest here; acknowledge yes it is difficult at the moment, but that as parents you have plans in place. Research maintenance grants at www.susi.ie , talk to your local credit union – they have many student loan offers in place with different amounts, duration of repayments and interest applicable.
Communication and support
Remember to keep communicating; the above will not be addressed in one conversation. Keep checking in and updating. This could be done in the form of text, email etc whatever works best for your young person. Good communication is the bridge between confusion and clarity so keep trying.
One final suggestion if you as a parent feel the anxiety is not easing; please seek out further help for your child. This could be getting their siblings to chat to them. Grandparents can also be a valuable resource here. Finally do not be afraid to seek professional help from those trained to deal with such anxieties. With the world going through this crazy time it would seem crazier if we didn’t need assistance to help us through.