Class of 2020- how you can help the year 11 in your life.
Updated: Mar 21
It seems like yesterday that I watched my daughter enter her first year of secondary school. I remember how small she looked in a blazer that swamped her and how she was only certain it was going to be ok because her big brother was there to look after her.
I knew of course that the experience at school would shape her and that somehow in the next 5 years she would find her confidence and move from being an "annoying" year 7 to a "cool" year 11. She had watched her brothers go through the transition and I knew that she too couldn’t wait for the time when she got to experience the ritual of graduating from high school.
In the last year I have witnessed her, and her friends commit to year 11 and knuckle down to study for the dreaded GCSE's. We have toured the local colleges and checked out various A level and BTEC courses so that she could make a choice about what her next step in life would be. We have been to various shops and looked at endless photographs online to choose the perfect prom dress and there has been excitement in her voice as she discusses options for makeup, hair and accessories. The limousine has been booked and there were various after parties to choose from, so much excitement to look forward to. I knew that there would be thousands of photographs taken and when she looked back on them she would remember the people she had shared her school years with and the fun and laughter she had experienced in the "best years of her life".
But today that has all been taken from her, not just her, all the year 11's up and down the country. The class of 2020 have had their dreams shattered. Suddenly GCSE's have been cancelled and there is no need to revise. Prom may be just a dream and Cinderella may not get to go to the ball with her Prince Charming. Today not everyone got to share in the signing of shirts or attending the leavers assembly and today they walked the school corridors for the last time. I asked her and her friends how they are feeling and they told me that they are angry but also sad that they didn't get to experience the rite of passage that their parents and siblings have experienced before them. They didn't get to say a proper goodbye and thank you to everyone that had made their school experience what it was. They feel like all their hard work has gone to waste and that they won't get to celebrate their accomplishments. They feel sorry for the people in isolation who had their last day at school without even knowing it. They weren't ready to say goodbye, even to the teachers that drove them mad and they definitely weren’t ready to say goodbye to friends who they may never see again. To add to all of these stresses, they are now feeling as though they may have to go into "lockdown". They will have so much time on their hands with no one to share it with. Staying connected via the phone just won’t be the same, teenagers need social contact. Our teenagers are nervous, they are angry, they are sad, they are gutted, and they are jealous of the experiences of the generations that have been before them and the ones that will come after them. On top of all of that, they are worried about what is happening in the world and to their families and friends. Their emotions, of which there are many, are at risk of overwhelming them.
As a counsellor, I would ask that during this difficult time for us all, you are patient with your child. They were just moving towards their next step in life, they were transitioning into adulthood and now it feels like it's all happening too fast and is beyond their control. They don’t know what’s coming next. They are disappointed in all that they will miss out on and the only positives they can see in all of this is that some people might get a better grade than they thought and there will be no exam stress to deal with. Even so, they still wanted the "trauma" of sitting their GCSE's. As adults we need to show our year 11's that when this dark cloud that is hovering above us has passed, the sun will shine again. We need to let them know that their feelings are valid and that we are here for them. We need to let them know that it is ok to grieve for a future they thought they were going to have. We need to let them know that we understand their disappointment, we feel disappointed for them too. We need to show them that at times like this families come together and support each other through the hardships that come our way. Remind your child that you know how hard they have worked, and it is that you are proud of, not just the results you hoped they would gain. Give your teenager a cuddle and tell them that you care. Offer them the support they need to help them build their resilience for the future to come.
Above all, I want my daughter and all teenagers to know that as adults we understand that you’re apprehensive about going into“lockdown“, we are too, but if we go into isolation, it doesn’t mean you have to isolate your thoughts. Reach out. Don’t feel you’re in this alone. Talk to us. We've got you!
Stay safe and stay well everyone.