Secondary School NewsJune 08, 2020
Normality is nearly here after an interesting start to the term.
A huge thank you to all parents who assisted with making the return to school routine for our students so trouble free. The majority of the girls are back into the school routine, despite there being restrictions still in place on a number of things. Classes are back to normal and our Year 7s thoroughly enjoyed dissecting a fish during their Science practical lesson as part of their Biology unit and from all reports, reports they have thoroughly enjoyed looking at the different parts of the fish.
It is great to see how our girls have adapted from face to face to online and then back to face to face learning. The girls have proven to us that they are resilient and capable of change. These are great strengths to have during these unusual times.
The Year 11 Child Care students have been taking home virtual babies. The young ladies have been taking care of these babies by waking up during the night to comfort them as well as having to take the baby with them when they go to places such as the shops.
The Year 11 and 12 ATAR students have started their exams, and we wish them all the best of luck. I know a lot of them are feeling a little bit stressed, but stress is an unavoidable part of life – and one that arises under positive and negative conditions. Enjoying outstanding personal achievement is a happy life experiences that nonetheless brings with it stress. Even welcome events cause stress when they involve adapting to new circumstances. Humans experience all change as stressful because adaptation requires us to work at the edge of our current capacities.
We wouldn’t want teens to avoid stress, even if they could, because teens build their capacities when they stretch beyond their comfort zones. Doing exams for a second time is almost always easier than doing exams for the first time, thanks to the growth that comes with doing them the first time around. Even with unpleasant events such as family or friendship issues or having a good friend move away, there are upsides to the stress. Research tells us that people who can weather challenging life experiences go on to be more resilient when faced with new difficulties.
Humans instinctively avoid whatever we fear. Avoidance serves a useful purpose when it protects us from real dangers, such as poisonous snakes or dark alleyways. But avoiding aspects of everyday life, such as dogs or elevators, makes anxiety worse and can lead to full-blown phobias.
Avoidance doesn’t just feed anxiety, and it serves up a two-course meal. First, avoidance brings immediate relief, which makes teens want to repeat the anxiety-avoidance-relief cycle. For example, a teenager who fears taking an elevator will feel much better if she decides to take the stairs instead. The next time she considers riding an elevator, she’ll remember how much better it felt to take the stairs and will want to repeat that experience.
Second, avoidance keeps teens from discovering that their fears are overblown; a teen who routinely takes the stairs never learns that elevators almost always work as they should. Instead of giving in to avoidance, it’s far better to help teens face their fears, even if they need to do so slowly and incrementally.
Though psychologists see anxiety and stress as normal, they also recognize that they can cross the line into unhealthy territory. Anxiety is unhealthy if it occurs in the absence of a threat or if the anxiety is much more intense than makes sense. For example, teens shouldn’t feel anxious when nothing is amiss, and a well-prepared student shouldn’t have a panic attack when taking a minor quiz. Stress is unhealthy if it is chronic—coming without breaks or any chance for recovery—or if it stems from emotionally overwhelming trauma. But even when anxiety and stress do reach unhealthy levels, there are people in our society to help.
The bottom line is that there’s no need for teenagers (or anyone else, for that matter!) to feel anxious about feeling anxious or stressed about being stressed. Psychologists have long understood that both of these emotions are in most cases, normal, helpful, and healthy aspects.
I read an interesting article on How to manage a meltdown by Lisa Damour, and the infograph on how she recommends handling a meltdown is available here.
Head of Secondary School