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My 15-year-old has lost self-confidence due to school closures. How can he rebuild it?

There are excellent programmes which aim to develop young people’s soft skills

My 15-year-old son in third year seems to have lost his sense of self-confidence and self-belief over the past year or so due to school closures and social isolation. Although he has been diligent in his online studies, I fear he’ll suffer long term damage. Is there any obvious source of support for him?

The pandemic has done huge damage to the normal emotional and psychological growth of many of our young people. Hopefully, now that he is returning to school, even if only for a few weeks, he can begin to rebuild his sense of self confidence.

As he will be starting into transition year in September, he will have a greater opportunity to develop those skills more effectively.

The Foróige Leadership for Life programme gives young people the opportunity to learn, develop and practice skills that will help them in their lives both now and in the future

I am aware of two specific programmes which could help rebuild his sense of self confidence: Gaisce and the Foróige Leadership for Life programme.

Many will be familiar with Gaisce, the President's award, which allows students the chance to get involved in a series of four key challenge areas - community, personal skill, physical recreation and adventure journey.

Similarly, the Foróige Leadership for Life programme gives young people the opportunity to learn, develop and practice skills that will help them in their lives both now and in the future. It is specifically designed for 15-18-year olds.

This programme enables young people to develop a broad range of skills and qualities needed to become effective leaders, striking a balance between fun and learning, with a variety of methodologies to suit all learning styles, abilities, and personalities.

It introduces young people to the key soft skills they will need to set them up for success in whatever career or life path they choose such as communication, problem solving, critical thinking, creativity, teamwork, and confidence. It also allows young people to consider their own unique characteristics and personality traits through reflection and self-awareness.

It places a strong emphasis on working effectively with others. This adds to the learning experience of the participants as they learn as much from each other as they do from the programme content itself.

On completion of the programme, participants can graduate with a "foundation certificate in youth leadership & community action" from NUI Galway, which gives them the opportunity to experience a formal graduation from a third level institution while still in school before they even consider going on to college.

Coming out of Covid lockdown after a year, programmes such as Gaisce or Foróige Leadership for Life may be just the tonic your son needs to restore his self-belief and confidence in his own abilities and skills, helping to shape him for the world of adult life he will soon be entering.

Both Gaisce and Foróige Leadership for Life are available through many schools in transition year and the Leaving Cert Applied programme. Foróige’ s programme is also available through sports clubs and youth organisations.