How to help vulnerable pupils prepare for the summer holidays.

SecEd reports that a recent webinar hosted by mental health and wellbeing expert Dr Pooky Knightsmith focused on how we can help to prepare vulnerable children and young people for the school holidays.

School holidays can be difficult for some young people, particularly those with mental health issues, but there are steps you can take to help them prepare. The first step is to get the young person talking and thinking about the holidays. Depending on the issues they are facing, they might have all sorts of different worries.

Things they might be concerned about are homework or coursework, making the transition to the next school year, or a particular role at home they’re worried about fulfilling – for example, young carers may feel stressed if they are expected to take on more during the holidays.

We need to understand how it feels from their perspective and work with them to problem-solve. For example, if their anxieties are about coursework, we might help them to think about how they both get enough rest and put the appropriate amount of time into their academic activities; when would be the best time, the most conducive setting and so on?

If they are worried about a caring role, we might help them think about what is expected of them, what is not expected, where the boundaries are and who can support them.

The next thing to ask the young person is whether anyone is currently aware of their issues. For some, the circle of people who know may be small and it might be that their friends, or people at home, don’t know. It’s good to talk about who will know about their issues when they are at home in the holidays and to think about who can help. Bear in mind that these two groups may not be the same.

It is good to get the young person thinking about their healthy coping mechanisms. What’s in their wellbeing toolbox? You might consider doing this in a very practical way and literally making a box full of things the young person can go through in times of crisis. In helping a young person put together their toolbox, you might ask: what makes you feel happy? What stops you feeling bad? What helps you relax or feel calm? What can act as a distraction? What’s worked well before? What would you like to try? What have others suggested?

Finally, even though you really care about your students, you need a break too. Help them plan, and talk to their care-givers too if necessary, but remember they cease to be your responsibility over the summer. You need to know you have done your best and then go and have a holiday.

Read more useful ways to help How to help vulnerable pupils prepare for the summer holidays.

Do you feel under pressure to help your pupils prepare for the long holidays? Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~Tamsin

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