Exams!! Argh!!

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Working with teenagers is draining! As any teacher will tell you

Living with teenagers is draining! As any parent will tell you

But, we often don’t consider what it’s like BEING a teenager. Yes we were all one once whatever that means to us but we’re not one now.

We may remember the flush of our cheeks and the dry mouth as we discovered our first love. We also remember with fondness the simplicity of being young with not a care in the World. What we often don’t remember was our struggle to navigate the World and do exams at the same time!

I have often said that whoever decided that putting a 15/16 year old through exams lasting anything from 30 minutes to 5 hours is cruel or mad.

Add to this the fact that they have been told for the last two years that these are the most important exams of their lives and things become a little tense.

Read my blog about anxiety for more info

But don’t forget the vital ingredient here too, it’s hay fever season!!! If you suffer with hay fever I don’t need to say another word.

The list of “againsts” goes on. Let’s add lack of sleep for a teenager who should be getting at least 9 hours of sleep per night, crowd hysteria when teenagers are gathering before an exam, feelings of inadequacy afterwards when they hear from a friend they’ve flunked a question, boyfriend / girlfriend issues…

As educators and parents we can help to ease some of the suffering. Here are my top tips…

#1 Your best IS good enough

Too many teenagers who talk to me don’t realise that their parents and teachers only want the best for them. Change your language from “I think you should be getting a Grade 7 in English” to “You’re brilliant at English and you enjoy it, try and enjoy the exam and do your best”

Oh, and the World will not stop spinning if you don’t get what you think you should!

#2 Ensure surroundings are calm

Parents – help your teenager to structure their revision with built in breaks and a cut off time. All night cramming isn’t going to work!

Make them a soothing drink or snack and settle down with them in the evening for an hour before bed. You could even explore some sleep apps.

Educators – passing exams is not just about knowledge, it’s about wellness too. Look at integrating some breathing techniques into revision sessions and how about leading a group breathing exercise before the exam?

Read my blog about breathing techniques for more info

#3 Have a little patience

Wise words from Mr Gary Barlow! Enough said!

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Control -how to be in control of not being in control!

You’ve been Framed




Is Life in the Way?

When life gets in the way, what does it get in the way of?

Does life get in the way of…Life?

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At the moment my life feels like it’s getting in the way. There’s lots to think about and lots to do. Of course, as an introvert, the lots to think about bit sometimes gets in the way of the lots to do bit. And so, procrastination takes over and fills any tiny little space with reasons why I shouldn’t start this or that yet as I’m way too busy!

I could go into detail but I’d lose you at “…and then there’s that picture I want to frame!”

I’m also really bad at taking my own advice!!

So, if I were listening to this tale of woe, what would I suggest? I normally say some of the following…

Go with the flow!

Give your brain a rest!

Write down what you have to do, pick one thing and just do it. Then, cross it off your list!

I was talking to one of the amazing young people that I work with the other day and she truly inspired me. Also an INFJ, she, like me, loves to write. She, like me, procrastinates and thinks she’s not good enough. She, unlike me, also has GCSE’s coming up in weeks. She, also unlike me, came up with a solution!

She has decided that setting herself the task of writing a novel feels way too big. “Why write a novel when I can sleep” she told me.

She has let go of the pressure of what she wants to do, she has set herself the task of one hour of revision per night. once she has completed this, as a treat; she can write for one hour.

She’s half way through her novel!!!

She’s moved life out of the way to make space for living!!!

If you are worried about GCSE’s, please feel free to contact me for more info

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Control -how to be in control of not being in control!

With the recent news overage about coercive control and it now being recognised as a crime, the word control still conjures up negative vibes in our minds.

But what if control were the only way we could get through the day? What if being in control was our safe place?

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Google the word control and get an idea of how many meanings we have for control.

Recently, I have experienced an array of ways in which control and the thought of having it taken away or indeed having it gifted, can send us into a spin…

Case 1 – A teenager who lives in fear that something will happen to her Mum, following years of emotional abuse from her father. Control of her environment is key. She has to know where Mum is all of the time and panics if Mum doesn’t instantly respond to her messages. This leaves her unable to leave the house out of school hours and is crippling her as she would love to go out and meet friends.

Case 2 – A young adult who has lived his life in the fast lane, spending all of his money (and then some) and finds himself at the age of 22 wanting to settle down with his girlfriend. She feels safe when she is “in” control whereas he feels safe when there is “less” control. Thus, there has been created a see saw whereby she feels frustrated by his apparent lack of commitment and he feels hemmed in by her planning and saving money.

Case 3 – A Mother who is facing the loss of control of her daughter who is about to move away from home to attend Uni. It’s not that she feels a need to control her daughter’s life, far from it. Rather that having to juggle the needs of her daughter and control how she does this has defined her. Shes almost losing control of her “self”.

Do any of these scenarios feel familiar to you?

Here is one of my top tips for managing your need to gain or give away control…

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  • Imagine you are the pilot of an airplane – you are flying the plane with your co-pilot
  • You are in control of the plane and the 150 passengers on board
  • You find that you need to use the toilet
  • Before you give away control, you have to ensure that your co-pilot is in control
  • In aviation, this exchange of control goes like this…

Pilot: “Bob, you have control”

Bob (Co-pilot): “I have control”

  • Not only do you now know that you have given control to Bob but he knows it too!
  • You can retake control whenever you want
  • You have the choice…the power to both be in control and to hand over control
  • So, either way – you’re in control of your choice

Cool hey?

Try it and let me know how it goes

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You’ve been Framed

As an INFJ, I have a never-ending need to learn. I satisfy this by constantly listening to others, mostly the amazing young adults I work with from whom I learn the most.

Professionally, however, I can usually credit little nuggets of wonder in my practice to my clinical supervisor who also is always teaching me and helping me to keep a student’s mind.

In our latest session, we talked about re-framing.

I often encourage my clients to accept that whist they cannot change certain things, they can change how they choose to react to them.

This is basically Re-framing  (check out a far more professional way of putting it here) but it always feels a bit of a mouthful and difficult to explain.

rectangular white wooden frame

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Until!!!!! The amazing Carla told me how she does it…

Let’s imagine your problem is in picture format

You may not like the picture, you’re tired of looking at it and it makes you sad, angry etc.

Imagine taking the picture out of its existing frame and placing it in a new one…

The new frame can be anything YOU choose

YOU have control over the way the picture looks

YOU can change how the picture looks

It may always be the same picture inside but you can change the overall look of it by adding a new frame!

Easy Peasy!

So I say this to Carla…

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Can’t wait to use it!

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Sometimes we are faced with awful events over which we have no control. They send us into a spin and we have to use all of our energy and knowledge to process and work through them.

But what if we’ve never been exposed to a tragic event before? What if we’re a young adult and we’re experiencing tragedy in its raw form for the first time?

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Young adults are hardwired to be part of “something”. Often, whether they like it or not, that something can be the school community.

This can make it all the more difficult when something happens which directly affects the school community. The illness, disappearance or even the death of a school colleague can send a tidal wave of shock through a school instantly.

Add the immediate information source of social media and suddenly a dangerous game of Chinese whispers begins.

Here are some of my top tips for supporting young adults if you’re an educator or carer…

Listen, Acknowledge, Believe

We know that young adults can sometimes be accused of never letting the truth stand in the way of a good story but they do not know what is true and what has been inflated for dramatic license.

If they see a new “report” on social media, updating them on their school friend, they are likely to believe it.

Whether you know this to be true or not, it is important to acknowledge that they believe it.

Try and hear them out and then ask them how they feel about the news. Do they believe it? know it to be true? Remind them that there are trusted sources of information such as the school or the parents of their friend. Has the news come from there?

Remember that whether the news is true or not, it will have generated a felt reaction and this should always be acknowledged. Not to do so could result in the young adult withdrawing and not trusting you.

Create Space

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Don’t overwhelm your young adult. They will want to share this new experience with their peers which could come across to us crusty old adults as false and over-dramatising things.

Remember, for many of them, they will not have had a chance to test out the emotions created by a tragic event at school.

Let them see first hand how others react so that they can decide how they want to react.

You may find that your young adult sees the weeping and midnight vigils as pointless but nevertheless is having difficulty expressing how they feel.

As humans, we often want to make sense of tragedy and feel that we are doing something to help.

Be Practical

A school I work with recently had to deal with the tragic death of a former student. Students that I spoke to wanted to do something as a community and decided they would like to light lanterns together. This helped them to mark the loss and have some closure. For more information, see my blog about bereavement.

Things like an open book of condolence, memories or get well wishes can give students a tangible place to go and take some action, mixing with others can help too.

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Encourage students to record their thoughts and feelings on their phone or in a journal. This has can be as helpful as talking to someone.

Give Accurate Information

If you are a school, my advice is to connect with a trusted source of information. The family are the best source but otherwise, police or other support teams working with the family may be able to help.

Share information as and when you have it.

This can be difficult as the social media jungle drum is often the “go to” for news, fake or otherwise.

Be truthful with students from the offset and reassure them that you will share facts as a and when you have them.

Follow through with this!

Offer Support

Use your support teams and any mental health professionals to offer support. Sometimes, having a quick chat or a few minutes time out can really help.

Support doesn’t have to be a talking therapy. Make some quiet space for reflection if students need it and ensure that students will remain quiet. Libraries are often good for this.

Likewise, have a “support hangout” destination where more extroverted types can meet and talk about how they feel with others without fear of recrimination.

Most of all, use your common sense! And remember, you were a teenager once!

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