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Riding the Waves of Change: supporting school students to adapt to impacts of COVID-19

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Jessica Nelson
Published
2 December 2021
Anne Graham
Professor Anne Graham

With the impacts of Covid-19 being felt globally, researchers are now gaining a clearer picture of its ongoing impact on the mental health of children and young people.

Southern Cross University’s Director of the Centre for Children and Young People Professor Anne Graham AO has developed an evidence-informed learning resource to support children and young people to understand and manage the social and emotional impact of the pandemic, in partnership with the MacKillop Institute.

This free resource, “Seasons Toolkit: Riding the Waves of Change” is available for all middle and secondary schools in Australia. It draws on key elements of Professor Graham’s highly successful Seasons for Growth suite of evidence-based psycho-social education programs which support children and young people to learn about and adapt to change and loss in their lives. A version for primary students is also being developed for release soon.

Fiona McCallum, Seasons for Growth General Manager, says the resource was developed after hearing concerns from parents and educators about the impacts of the disruptions to routines, education and social contact for children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing. Recent international research suggests that 85 per cent of parents have reported changes in their children during the COVID-19 lockdown.[1]

“The experience of the pandemic has been unprecedented and the changes and uncertainty have been ongoing for children, young people and adults alike.  Everyone’s experiences have been different, however we have all been required to adapt to the changes and we will need to continue to do so for some time to come,” she says.

“We also know that young people are more likely to adapt well given timely and appropriate information and support. In the past 12 months we have trained more than 1,400 teachers and professionals across Australian schools in our Seasons for Growth suite of evidence-based change and loss programs.  These teaching professionals frequently report the value of the training and understanding the experience of significant change and loss for children and young people.”

Southern Cross University’s Anne Graham AO, a Professor of Childhood Studies, has dedicated her professional career to research and developing evidence-based programs to support children’s rights, safety and wellbeing with a particular specialisation in building emotional wellbeing and resilience for children and young people following major life events such as death, separation, divorce, forced migration and natural disasters.

“Children were not the main focus of concern in the first wave of the pandemic and little attention was paid to the ways it was impacting their lives. With the second and third waves, we now have growing evidence internationally about the social and emotional impacts on children and young people. Putting this together with recent research on experiences of natural disasters, and many years of working with children in the Seasons for Growth programs, we have a much better understanding of the knowledge and skills they need to help them live with uncertainty and adapt to experiences of change, loss and grief,” Professor Graham said.

“The reality is that children’s voices still often go unheard in the midst of major family and community trauma. While every young person’s experience will be slightly different, we know that many need appropriate information and support to make sense of their emotions when they are ready to do so. The most important thing we can do is acknowledge their reactions and equip them with the confidence and skills to voice their experiences, manage their feelings, make good choices, set goals and reach out for support. This is the essence of resilience and skills they need for life.”

This free resource is available at https://www.scu.edu.au/centre-for-children-and-young-people/seasons-toolkit/

The Toolkit has been created as an animated video file to help ensure it can be readily used by teachers and students in a classroom or online setting, and shared with parents and carers for home viewing.

In the past 25 years, Seasons for Growth programs have expanded to meet the increasing needs of communities in Australia and internationally and have now supported more than 350,000 children, young people and adults in Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Scotland, Ireland, England and Wales.

Reference: [1] Psychological effects of the COVID-19 lockdown on children and families in the UK

 

Media contact: Jessica Nelson, media office at Southern Cross University, 0417 288 794 or [email protected]