School holidays are a great opportunity to relax and unwind following a busy and productive school term. Some students may have assessment tasks to complete during the break, and others may use this opportunity to catch up on schoolwork or study notes. Whilst this is important, it is also beneficial to make time for rest and recreation. By ensuring students have time to engage with friends, exercise and relax they are more likely to return to school in Term 2 feeling refreshed, re-energised and ready for the tasks and experiences that await them at school over the 9-week term.
School holidays are not always an easy or relaxing time for young people, for many different reasons. During the holidays students may miss different aspects of school including seeing their friends regularly, having a consistent routine each day, having access to support from teachers, and having access to other supports such as school counselling. If you are concerned about a student’s wellbeing during the school holiday period, the following steps may be helpful:
- Check in with them.
Find a time and place free from distractions and competing priorities, without others around (in order to ensure privacy). Ask them how they are and wait for their reply, showing that you care and that you are there to listen to their response. If they have concerns/difficulties, empower them to engage in problem solving (with you if needed) rather than trying to take over the situation for them. Sometimes problem solving can involve connecting a young person to appropriate supports (see below). Check in with them regularly to see how the situation is progressing for them. Good communication between young people and their parents/caregivers is a strong protective factor against mental health issues and also promotes positive relationships.
- Suggest online resources.
Websites such as Beyond Blue, eHeadspace and Reachout.com offer a multitude of information, handouts and resources for young people (and parents/carers) about a range of topics including mental health issues, stress and anxiety, relationship issues and study/exam tips. Some of these organisations also offer telephone or online counselling services. A list of such organisations can be found in the ERC student diary on page 46.
- Consider accessing professional support.
If you are concerned about a young person’s mental health, you may want to consider accessing support from a psychologist for therapy/counselling. A referral for a psychologist can be made by a GP. This is known as a ‘Mental Health Care Plan.’ It is particularly important to seek professional support if a young person engages in self-harm, experiences very low mood for prolonged periods of time, or identifies thoughts about suicide or attempts suicide. Psychologists can help young people learn to regulate their mood, manage anxiety and stress, navigate relationship difficulties and manage negative thoughts and feelings.