Tackling the Challenges of an Unpredictable Year

Jul 30, 2020NCEA, Parent advice

Change is an inevitable part of every child’s life and it is only natural that they may struggle to cope with the onslaught of new challenges from this year.

Especially now as we begin to approach term 3 mocks, delayed exams, and the inevitable catch-up’s from lockdown. 

We all know that being a teenager is hard. It is a time of immense growth and learning and can often be overwhelming. Although change is commonly associated with the start of a new school year, there are often several new developments occurring throughout your child’s life, whether it be related to school, friends, family, jobs and more that add new pressures. 

Change is often unpredictable and as a result, your child may struggle with feelings of anxiety and stress when faced with so many differences in their day-to-day life.

Although change is not always easy, it does not have to take control of your child’s life. Rather, we know that your child has the power to take control of their own life despite any adversities they may be faced with. In this article, we will be going through some of the ways that you can help your child tackle the challenges of an unpredictable year.

Be Sensitive to Changes in Your Child

Children and teens can be difficult to read at times, but more often than not, they will exhibit physical or emotional signs of distress long before they acknowledge them aloud. You must remain aware of any changes in your child, as their behaviour can serve as indicators to an underlying issue in their life. 

Some behaviours to look out for include:

    • Negative changes in mood (more tearful, angry, frustrated).
    • Being unwilling/less willing to communicate.
    • Increase in irritability.
    • Difficulty concentrating.
    • Difficulty sleeping/lack of sleep.
    • Lack of appetite or excessive appetite.
    • Changes in social habits.
    • Frequent headaches and stomachaches.
    • Educational issues (poor attendance, poor grades).

If you notice these kinds of behaviours (outside of the usual), we recommend that you focus on helpful ways that you can support them. 

What You Can Do:

Approach the Situation With an Open Mind

It is critical that you remain patient with your child and be willing to hear them out. It may be tempting to lose your temper if your child is acting difficult, especially if we may not have experienced the struggles they are facing. However, it is important to keep things in perspective. Your child is struggling and requires your help. They need to know that you are on their side, and any negative outbursts on your behalf may only worsen their feelings. 

Discuss With Your Child

Speaking to your child calmly and reassuringly, as well as reminding your child that you are there for them, will make a world of difference for any child or teen. This shows your teenager that you are treating them with respect and that they’re in a judgement-free space. If they are unwilling to speak, it’s not always best to force conversation. Instead, encourage your child to express their thoughts in another way (e.g. writing them down) so that they do not keep their emotions bottled up.

We understand that it can be difficult to facilitate conversation at times. Here is an article that addresses how to talk to your child.

Remember Your Influence

Further negativity can only fuel your child’s own negative feelings. It sometimes feels like we’re not getting through, but it’s important to be aware of your behaviour when your child is around. Do you tend to speak positively, or are you someone who tends to focus on the negative aspects of a situation? 

It’s natural that sometimes, negativity will seep into the conversation. However, you need to remember that you are a role model to your child and that they are especially sensitive to you. As a result, you should focus on limiting negative conversations with your child in favour of more positive interactions.

Monitoring your child and being sensitive to their needs are essential steps during tough times. Supporting your child by maintaining self-awareness and positive interaction will empower them to overcome adversity.

Find Accomplishment

Your child needs to find accomplishment in themselves. This will help your child feel like they are actively making progress and thus, that they are making a positive step for themselves. 

Additionally, accomplishing goals or ticking things off a to-do list sends a hit of dopamine to your child’s brain, which induces better mood, better focus, better memory and better movement. The effect of dopamine will further encourage your child to stay motivated in tackling their goals as they will have a good sense of how rewarding it is when they accomplish something.

Ways to Get Going:

Set goals

Encourage your child to set some new short and/or long term goals for the rest of the year. Your child needs to have goals as it will keep them on track with their accomplishments. One way to set goals is through the SMART acronym:

    • Specific (state exactly what you’ll do).
    • Measurable (provide a way to evaluate the goal).
    • Achievable (possible to accomplish).
    • Relevant (improves studying/work/life in some way).
    • Time-bound (state when you’ll get it done).

Examples of potential SMART goals may include:

    • Get eight hours of sleep every night for a month.
    • Exercise at least three times a week for two months.
    • Earn an overall NCEA Merit Endorsement in biology by the end of the year.

Setting goals like this will help to provide a sense of direction. They will also assist your child in staying organised to help them eventually achieve their goals.

Break Down Goals

Sit down with your child to review the goals they have set. Discuss how your child plans to achieve their goals. 

A fundamental aspect of the planning process is to break down the goal over days/weeks and assign tasks to each day. This is an effective way of completing a goal as it breaks it down into smaller, more manageable chunks. As a result, your child will find it easier to achieve the goal as they can see the process, rather than just a vague outcome. 

Breaking down the goal into smaller tasks will help them to see that they are making real progress, which will keep them motivated to keep going. 

Praise Your Child

Although setting goals are important, another crucial aspect of goal setting is acknowledging accomplishment. It is fundamental to your child’s wellbeing that you praise them before, during and especially after they have accomplished a goal. This will raise their spirits and make them feel supported, which can help them to persevere when things get tough. Celebrating accomplishments will also boost your child’s confidence, which will motivate them to continue setting and working on goals. 

Cultivate Resilience

Resilience is defined as the ability to bounce back from difficulty. This is an essential skill for your child as they will undoubtedly be faced with adversities throughout their high school years (e.g. earning a bad grade, being rejected after a job interview, losing a friend). Resilience assists your child in coping with difficulty, as well as actively seeking out new ways to overcome adversity and achieve their goals. This creates opportunities for your child to experience success and increased self-confidence.

Having good resilience also has a range of benefits, including increased self-awareness, the ability to accept change, and the capacity to persevere through tough times.

Cultivating Resilience:

There are several elements that influence resilience. These include:

    • Building positive relationships with those who care for you: These will be the people you can uplift you during difficult times.
    • Accepting that change is a part of living: Being able to accept that circumstances for what they are, instead of fighting them.
    • Nurturing a positive view of yourself: This helps by increasing confidence and self-awareness.
    • Keeping things in perspective: Remembering the bigger picture, to avoid being sucked into one event/moment.
    • Staying optimistic: Focusing on the good in every situation to move on from the bad aspects.

These can help your child to move on and focus on the things they can control. In turn, they will feel more empowered to persevere and cope with the challenges of uncertainty.

Make Use of Helpful Resources

Resources are invaluable sources of information for your child. As parents, it is only natural that you will not always have the answers to your child’s questions, or you may not know how to help your child with a particular issue. 

Parents and teachers are often the main sources of support for students, but resources can also serve as a place where children can get answers about anything, whether it be for wellness or school. Additionally, adolescence can be a difficult time, and it is paramount they have access to all sorts of additional support.

Helpful Resources:

  • 0800 What’s Up is a counselling helpline and webchat service run by Barnardos New Zealand for children and teenagers. They have a team of fully qualified professionals available for phone counselling at 0800 942 8787 from 12pm-11pm on weekdays and 3pm-11pm on weekends. They also provide an online chat service on their website from 1pm-10pm on weekdays and 3pm-10pm on weekends. We would also recommend checking out their website as there is a range of advice articles regarding topics such as bullying, anxiety, friendships, etc.
  • Youthline is a service for youth that offers a range of services, including counselling, mentoring and employment assistance. Currently, they are unavailable for phone counselling, but they do provide counselling through free text (234) and email (talk@youthline.co.nz). They also have an ‘advice hub’ on their website that contains a range of articles covering topics such as depression, relationships, student life, etc. 
  • 1737, need to talk? is New Zealand’s national mental health helpline. It is free to text or call 1737 anytime to speak with a trained counsellor about a range of concerns. A counsellor will work with the person to develop a care plan which could include a referral to another service, additional counselling or provision of information and support. 
  • No Brain Too Small is an educational website that provides several free resources for all Year 9-10 science assessments and Year 11-13 science internals and externals. Resources include flashcards, cheat sheets, revision notes, and more.
  • Studytime is an educational website that provides countless free resources for Year 11-13 students. Resources include subject walkthrough guides, subject checklists, advice articles and helpful videos. There are also paid resources, such as subject workbooks and stationery.

It can also be useful to take some time to research some additional resources that may be more relevant, should they need. There are countless resources available for your child, and our list of resources only provides a small number of them. Once you and your child have curated a list of helpful resources, it is a good idea to have a physical or digital copy that is readily available to your child so that they have it whenever they may need it. 

Take Care

Change will always present a new set of challenges for your child. Although it may seem daunting at first, there are several strategies that you can use to help your child face these adversities.

No matter what situation you and your child are in, being sensitive to changes in your child, finding accomplishment, cultivating resilience and making use of resources will help your child to tackle the challenges of an unpredictable year.



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