Since the first lockdown in 2020, young people have more emotional problems, are a lot less satisfied with their lives and feel more lonely. This is what researchers from Utrecht University are researching from various disciplines into the well-being of young people before and during corona. Kirsten Buist is one of those researchers and explains: “We know that in a normal situation about 5 percent of young people have worrying emotional problems. During our measurement moments in April, July and October 2020 – at the time of the lockdowns – this percentage was 15 percent: that is a threefold increase. During the last measurement in April 2021, when secondary schools were partly open again and vaccination had started, it was 10 percent.”
According to Buist, it seems that the percentage of young people who have emotional problems is related to the amount of measures taken. The quarantine measures in particular have had a major impact on the well-being of young people. That does not mean that all problems will solve themselves now that the schools are open again. “We don’t have any figures for what it is now, but I expect we are still at an elevated level. Young people have sometimes experienced really unpleasant situations and you take something from that. Many things have not gone through. In particular, ceremonial events, such as a school trip or camp, but also a funeral, you can no longer catch up. Young people can feel really bad about that.” According to Buist, you help students by stating that you understand that it is difficult for them. “Give them the freedom to express this. Talking about it in class can help them realize that they are not alone in this situation.”
Lessons about the brain
One of the ways to discuss this topic in class is by using a teaching package. Youth doctor Liesbeth Meuwissen of the GGD is one of the developers of ‘Master your brain?!’, which consists of four animations with an explanation of how your brain works and assignment sheets to get started with this topic as a class. In conversations with schools, Meuwissen noticed that there was a great need for these lessons among teachers. “In the past, schools said: we are a school, not a care institution. But since corona, it has been clear to everyone that education makes no sense if students are not mentally fit.
“When creating the teaching package, conversations with students showed that they were very happy with the lesson on this subject and that they thought it was important that their personal stories are handled with care. That is why the manual for the lessons pays a lot of attention to creating a safe atmosphere in the classroom”, explains youth art Meuwissen. For example, there is a video in which developmental psychologist Steven Pont provides tools to work with this subject in the classroom in a safe way.
The lessons of the GGD are aimed at all students in secondary education, but of course some students have more mental problems than others. Meuwissen: “In that respect, this teaching package is a starting point. It explains and makes it more normal to talk about what’s going on in your head. Young people rarely do that because they have little insight into how feelings and thoughts influence your mood. While sharing your experiences really helps.” For students who are really stuck, Liesbeth Meuwissen advises to seek help from the school or youth health care. “As a teacher, you are not a counselor after all. You are a supportive adult who can steer young people in the right direction.”
By: National Education Guide
Young people are having a hard time mentally, make these feelings negotiable
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