Leaving Cert parents: Forget about points and keep focus on daily tasks

Concentrating on the here and now can help keep longer-term anxieties in proportion

“Forget about points, don’t waste energy fretting about future events and focus on the tasks your teachers set you each week and day.”

This advice to Leaving Cert students from the president of the Institute of Guidance Counsellors, Beatrice Dooley, also applies to their parents.

“Individual students are not in this alone, all are equally impacted by this issue,” she stresses. It is not constructive to speculate how events may unfold “as we do not want to raise anxiety levels”. Students need to control what they can control: their learning and their progress.

“As we work through this situation, some students may become stressed about the virus itself or exams. Talking and listening to your child is very important, and dispelling fake news they may pick up on the internet.”

Parents will be aware that grandparents can be the go-to person for some teenagers and this contact is being physically curtailed for everyone’s safety. It’s important to help grandparents to continue to communicate with their grandchildren electronically or by phone, she suggests. Students should also know how to contact their guidance counsellors during this time.

Dooley also reminds parents that they have a pivotal role in stopping the spread of Covid-19 by ensuring young people are not meeting in groups, which “would defeat the purpose of school closures”.

Her other key tips for parents include:

Stick to a routine

It is imperative that students, and indeed all of us, maintain a sense of routine: shower, dress, create a separate work or study space, take regular breaks, talk to others, use social media to stay connected with the peer group. But it is important that students do not wind each other up on social media.

Have a plan

Encourage them to prepare a daily plan for managing not only their studies but also their mental health and ask them to share it with you. Having a plan can help keep anxiety at a normal level. By sharing that plan and letting parents know if it goes pear-shaped, everyone can think about it, make a better plan and address the challenge together.

Self-discipline is the key

Students should follow whatever advice and instructions they have been given by their school, teachers and guidance counsellors. As students will be using their phones and electronic devices more, families need to decide when downtime will be.

They all need to exercise personal responsibility and keep up with their school and homework. Students should reach out to friends and classmates if they are struggling with school work; there is lots of research to show they learn better from their peers.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help

If there is a shortage of technology hardware at home for your children, contact the school to see if a tablet or laptop is available to borrow.

Parents can access online work in a guardian capacity; to learn how this works, consult your school website for instructions or reach out to other parents. Students who struggle with spellings or special needs will need extra support to connect with online work.

Focus on the now

Dooley quotes the German-born spiritual author Eckhart Tolle: "The power for creating a better future is contained in the present moment. You create a good future by creating a good present."

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