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Back to School Time

03 September 2018

It’s back to school time again and our London mentoring service, Friendship Works is looking at how this and other changes and transitions in life can impact children and young people who face additional challenges.

“Back to School” is a familiar ring at this time of year. It’s a time of change and new beginnings. For many children and young people, September means a new year and new teachers or maybe a new school or college, and for many this can be an exciting and optimistic time.  However, there are lots of children for whom change is a time of great anxiety, full of worries and confusion.

If, as a child, you have a caring responsibility for a parent, leaving them to return to school can be a very worrying time and make it hard to concentrate on school work or make friends.  For children in care or those who have been adopted, change or starting something new or can be overshadowed by a sense of loss and separation or simply the fear of more change; and for children with autism any change from familiar patterns and routines can be very frightening and unsettling.

For all these children the challenges they face day to day and the trauma’s they have experienced earlier in their lives can make undertaking what may to others seem simple and “just an ordinary part of childhood”, like climbing a mountain.  They often hold their worries and fears as secrets, not feeling able to share them with anyone, or maybe bullied for being “different”.  The impact of all this on their abilities to concentrate in their lessons or feel confident enough to manage the hustle and bustle of forming friendships can be enormous.  Having friends and a positive experience of education are two important aspects of happiness for children, and without them many children and young people can end up feeling lonely, isolated and depressed.  It is estimated that at 1 in 10 children or young people experience mental health difficulties and for some these are triggered by changes like starting a new school.

“To have someone and somewhere to let out the pressure, to be who they are, to not have to hold the secret”

Friendship Works (Family Actions Mentoring Service) supports all these groups of children and young people by providing them with volunteer adult mentors.  These are people who make a commitment to meet with a child or young person regularly, to go out together to do activities and have fun; but also, importantly, to have someone and somewhere to let out the pressure, to be who they are, to not have to hold the secret, but to have the space to do lots of the things that other children do.

What builds positive mental health for children? Having the chance to play and have fun; feeling accepted and valued; having opportunities to be good at things and succeed; being in control of some aspects of their lives, and having someone to share worries and concerns with.  A Friendship Works mentor does all that.  Through the time spent with a reliable, caring adult mentor, children can have different kinds of experiences, which help to build their self-esteem. In the long run this has a direct impact on their mental and emotional health so they can take on the everyday challenges and changes of childhood, like returning to school, with resilience and confidence.

Find out more about becoming a mentor with our Friendship Works service here and support a child as they face some of life’s crucial moments.