Staff Wellbeing in Schools: Burning Out

I will always remember my first term working in a school. I couldn’t believe how absolutely knackered I was – I don’t think I had ever been so tired in my life. The job itself – school counsellor -didn’t hold as much responsibility as I had assumed in my previous roles managing charities. I wasn’t responsible for staff, or finding funding, or for keeping the organisations afloat. The problems I helped with, for the main, weren’t ‘heavier’ than in previous roles where I had worked with young people in crisis. It was something else. Something else that I had never felt before – the feeling of being part of a huge machine that just doesn’t stop for breath. I laugh about it now – my caseload at the time was tiny in comparision to how many students I saw the year I left, but it wasn’t the amount of work as such, it was feeling like you could never stop – there was always something or someone that needed your attention. If you got distracted for even a second you would miss something important. And the emails – my goodness the sheer volume of emails!

I don’t find it surprising therefore that a 2019 study found that 40% of British teachers were considering leaving the profession – and this was pre-Covid. My guess is that it is much higher now. When I left my international school in 2022, a third of the teaching staff went at the same time. After 18 months of being locked into the country, many wanted to be closer to their families in Europe. Many left the profession altogether.

I have facilitated a number of staff wellbeing groups for both teaching and non-teaching staff recently, and the struggle is the same for both. The long first term has all school staff clinging on for dear life, struggling to get to the end. 14, 15 even 16 week terms are normal, and exhaustion is normalised. “What do you like best about your job” I ask people – “the holidays” are usually the reply. Term time is full of demands. Parents demanding that their children get the right extra-curriculas or that the buses run on time. Students demanding that their teachers give them advice about essays and homework over the weekends. Senior Leadership ‘dropping’ a last minute activity or task upon already overloaded staff. A never ending stream of emails demanding to be read.

Unsurprisingly then, burnout is all too common amongst people who work in schools. I have seen it firsthand with a colleague I valued greatly. Sadly, by the time we realised what was happening for her, it was already too late and she ended up leaving. It starts with an expectation on yourself that you must prove yourself and you must do more. It ends with you physically unable to go to work. In between you feel guilt that you are letting people down, anger and irritability with colleagues and students, and, feeling unable to face colleagues you isolate yourself. It is possible to bounce back from burnout, but for many this means a change of school, or leaving the profession altogether.

There are a number of factors which affect the likelihood of burning out which are not just about the workload someone is faced with. These include staff members feeling unappreciated by their management, not feeling they have autonomy or control over their work and a lack of community and support.

So what helps? When asked that question, school staff routinely say ensuring they do things outside of work, like hobbies or exercise. But they also acknowledge that these can be the first things to go when they start feeling tired. Asking for help from colleagues, and taking the time to check in with each other during the day can be a lifeline. Seperating home from school by deleting your school email account from your phone is a controversial one, with some staff too scared to do so despite their being no requirement to have it on there. If you can’t delete it, don’t answer emails after 5pm. Or if you have to, schedule send them for 7am the following day – this will reduce the expectation on you that you are available 24/7. And, finally, if you start to realise you are struggling, seek professional help from a counsellor or other mental health professional. Burnout is tough – understand the signs to get the help you need early.

If you would like to find out more about burnout in education you can download our free Anti-Burnout Book for Teachers here.

The First Symposium on Safeguarding & Child Protection, Cambodia, August 2023

This week I was honoured to be a part of the first Symposium on Safeguarding and Child Protection in Education, held in Phnom Pehn in Cambodia, alongside Sian Jorgensen from Encompass Safeguarding and the Child Protection Unit a non-governmental organisation dedicated to helping the local police solve serious crimes against children.

On day one I trained 16 people from the Anti-Human Trafficking and Child Protection Unit of the National Cambodian Police, teachers, charity workers and representatives from the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Womens Affairs, in Basic Psychological First Aid for Young People. This was a Training the Trainers course, meaning they will then be able to train their colleagues and other staff who may find it helpful. Psychological First Aid is a relatively new concept in Cambodia and I hope the training is cascaded to those who need it.

The conference started in earnest the following day with Sian training 130 teachers from 40 schools across the region, in Level 1 Safeguarding. teaching them how to spot if a child or young person is being abused and what they need to report to their designated safeguarding leads. She also had trained about 16 people the day before to be safeguarding trainers themselves.

On day two participants heard talks on the laws in Cambodia with regards to sexual consent and sexting, safer recruitment of staff, how to talk to children who are disclosing abuse, and from me, a presention on Peer on Peer Abuse with a focus on sexually harmful behaviors, and a talk on the importance of believing children when they disclose, and being mindful of our body language and tone of voice as to not victim blame or further shame children. The main points of my presentations are below:

Peer on Peer Abuse: Main Points

  1. Young men under 18 are the age group most likely to be victims of, and perpetrators of serious physical violence.
  2. The place young women are most likely to be sexually harassed or assaulted worldwide is school
  3. The strongest indicator of adult interpersonal violence is early exposure to it and peer approval of it. Young people because of their age and experience may not know what a healthy relationship looks like and will rely on scripts from their friends.
  4. Where peer on peer abuse is normalised by friends and family, there is less safety seeking.
  5. School has the opportunity to disrupt the normalisation of peer on peer abuse by teaching about consent and healthy relationships.
  6. It is important to by tackle the “lower levels” of sexual violence such as sexualised name calling, rape “jokes” and cat-calling, because these normalise more serious sexual violence.
  7. Do an audit of your school with your students – where do they feel unsafe? Where is bullying and sexual or physical violence most likely to happen? What suggestions do they have to disrupt this?

Responding to Children Who Have Been Harmed: Main Points

  1. Hearing stories of abuse can be heart-breaking and it can be tempting to ignore the signs that something is wrong, but we mustn’t do that.
  2. Shame, fear of, or attachment to their abusers can hinder a child disclosing what is happening to them.When we are talking to them, we must ensure we don’t blame them or shame them as this will stop them from talking to us, or perhaps even seeking help in the future.
  3. What children and young people can’t tell you with their words they will show you with their behaviour. As educators we must look out for changes to their ABCs – appearance, behaviour or communication (this can include social media posts, drawings and creative writing).
  4. Tone of voice and body language is incredibly important. We must pay attention to the messages we give off when talking to children and young people. A sharp or angry sounding tone of voice will make them feel shamed or a nuisance and will shut down conversation. Looking distracted or like you need to be somewhere else will make them feel like you don’t care, and shut down conversation.
  5. It is not your job as educators to determine guilt or innocence. You don’t need to interrogate them, you just need the basic facts to handover to your DSL or the Child Protection Unit.
  6. There have been too many cases where children have died at the hands of parents because, despite lots of people knowing that something was happening, no-one did anything, because they questioned themselves “what if I am wrong?”. As a former DSL in a school I would much rather get a report that turned out to be nothing, than something not being reported that was something. Don’t ask yourself “what happens if I am wrong” ask “what if I am right”
  7. Sexual predators don’t only groom young people – they also groom the adults around them. In schools, it is important to be clear on what is and isn’t appropriate behaviour in terms of teacher-pupil. And let the students know who to report to if it happens to them. Students are rarely surprised when a teacher is arrested – they know who the creepy teachers are, the problem is they assume you do too.

I had a great time in Cambodia and I hope that I am able to go back to build upon the work we started there. Many thanks to Sian for inviting me along, and to everyone at the Child Protection Unit for their amazing hospitality and for pulling together a packed conference in a few short months.

You can donate to the Child Protection Unit, through their parent NGO the Cambodian Childrens Fund here. They are a small team who help the Cambodian National Police to solve serious crimes against children. They also support child victims and their families by supplying basic foods, and help train the Cambodian Police Force in interviewing and forensic skills. They do amazing work for victims.

What is needed to live a good life?

Daily writing prompt
What are the most important things needed to live a good life?

The one thing that connects all humans in their need for a “good life” is connection. Each of us, no matter who we are need to believe that at least one person, somewhere, cares about us.

Ever wondered why some people who seem to have it all, are miserable? It’s lack of true connection, once they are rich / famous, they may start to doubt that they have true friends. A similar thing happens with “affluent neglect” – those kids that have everything that money can buy but their parents are absent or emotionally unavailable as they spend all of their time working.

Connection and friendship/love are protective factors against a whole host of mental health issues. When people feel disconnected and lonely they are more at risk of serious mental health problems. This is why one of the highest suicide rates are amongst the elderly – everyone they’ve loved has already gone. When people feel connected to someone, they are more likely to overcome lifes challenges. Every time I hear a story of someone managing to live a great life after a childhood full of abuse, there is always someone that they connected with, that showed them compassion and care – often a teacher, but it could be anyone within the community.

So find your person, or your tribe. Phone a friend you haven’t spoken to in a while. Join a sports club or do something that gets you out and about to meet people. Hold close the people you care about. Smile at random strangers, talk to people on public transport, laugh with your co-workers – you will never truly know the positive impact you have on them and they may need it more than you do.

Three Great Self-Help Books for Mental Health (that you’ve probably never heard of)

Rock Steady by Ellen Forney

Whats it about?
Ellen Forney is a graphic artist with Bipolar Disorder. Her graphic memoir “Marbles” charts her unravelling into mania then her journey towards diagnosis and treatment, while this one is all about how to cope when your mental health isn’t great.

Why do I love it?
Firstly it is a graphic novel aka comic so it is super easy to read and follow. It is also packed with great advice and explanations of the different kinds of therapies, how to pick the best therapy for you and how to cope in a mental health crisis. Although it is aimed at people with bipolar disorder, the advice within it is helpful to most people, and as a counsellor I teach many of the coping strategies outlined in this book.

F*ck Feelings by Michael I. Bennett MD & Sarah Bennett

What’s it about?
The subtitle of the book is “One shrink’s practical advice to managing all life’s impossible problems” and that’s exactly what it is – covering everything from annoying family members, to wanting to make everyone feel better, to heartbreak and everything inbetween. And despite the title, they actually care about feelings a lot but recognise you can’t always get what you want – so will give you realistic alternatives to stop you being miserable.

Why do I love it?
I adore the structure of this book which is basically –
1. Here’s what you wish for but can’t have
2. Here’s what you can aim for and actually achieve
3. Here’s how you do it.
It is super practical, realistic and actually quite funny.

I also find that people can be miserable because they want people to change or for things to be different in ways that they can’t, and this book aims straight for that.
Caution though – as the title would suggest – it is full of swears.

“A Straight Talking Introduction to the Power Threat Meaning Framework – An Alternative to Psychiatric Diagnosis” by Mary Boyle & Lucy Johnson

What’s it about?
While not a self-help book in the traditional sense, I think this could be very helpful to a lot of people who are struggling to understand why they feel the way that they do. As it states on the title, this is the alternative to the medical model of mental illness – so instead of seeing mental ill health as a series of diagnostic symptoms (what is wrong with you?) it instead sees the way you feel/behave as a series of coping strategies because of something that happened or is happening to you. The idea is that the general patterns of ‘mental illness’ represent is what people do in the face of threat and talks about surviving or coping with certain life dilemmas, not about having certain conditions.

Why do I love it?
Although the title is an absolute gobfull and hardly the most appealing – the book is actually really easy to read and understand and has questions at the end of each chapter for the reader to reflect upon their life experiences and how they coped. This is not only about trauma in the traditional sense but also about our lives generally, taking into account our experiences of discrimination, poverty and other aspects of power that we may or may not have. As a counsellor who reads a lot of mental health content, it is also my most bookmarked and underlined book.

Have you read any of these – what did you think? What other books would you add to the list?

Revision Audit

I recently posted a reel on Instagram explaining how to do a revision audit if you (or your child) were feeling overwhelmed with how much stuff you have to revise for your upcoming exams. Doing an audit of what you already know helps you to prioritise what to concentrate on and gives you a little boost and reminder of what you already know. An example audit is below; I recommend you do it for every subject you have

The Cycle of Self Esteem

Many years ago I worked as a Sex & Relationships Outreach worker for a small team based within the NHS called Teenage Kicks. We did 3 sessions as a staple offer. One on self esteem and rights, one on relationships and one on contraception. I’m unsure where this exercise came from (my guess is probably something from Jo Adams) but it has been one that has created so many AHA! moments for both young people and adults, not only in terms of self esteem but also in recognising that we are not mind readers and cannot always tell why someone is behaving the way they are.

This is how I use the Cycle of Self Esteem (though sometimes I don’t call it anything):

Getting young people to understand not everything is about them:
One day I was talking with 2 young people at war. Previously the best of friends, each swore blind that the other had stopped speaking to them first. Turns out, Person A had went to talk to Person B between classes, and Person B had walked off and ignored them. Person A then believing Person B had stopped speaking to them avoided them and effectively stopped talking to them. Person B had no idea what happened. They were so caught up in worrying about a test they had the next period that they hadn’t noticed Person A trying to talk to them, all they knew is that their best friend stopped talking to them seemingly without reason. So they didn’t talk to them either. What they both thought “they’re not talking to me, what did I do wrong?” caused them both to avoid the other person. They laughed when they realised what had happened. I use this example often when people get stuck in the “its their fault”

Changing our thoughts & behaviour to support peers
Along the same lines, within Psychological First Aid Training for Students I ask young people to write down all of the things that someone might be thinking or feeling when they are having a bad day, We often get ideas such as feeling upset, or angry, thinking no-one likes them, or that the world is unfair. Then I ask them to consider how this may impact their behaviour – examples are usually things like withdrawing, not talking to people, acting moody or snapping at people. How might others think/feel about them? And how will that impact their behaviour? The reflection here for young people, especially those who are being trained to provide peer support, is to understand that how people behave is rarely about those around them, it’s about them. So if our first reaction is to believe it’s about us, we will often withdraw as well which may further impact how bad the person is feeling. If our thoughts are “they’re clearly having a bad day” we are more likely to ask if they are okay and what they need (which may be to be left alone which is fine). It also seperates us from feeling automatically responsible for someone elses behaviour and helps them to take responsibility for feeling better.

Helps young people to think about coping strategies & ways to change mood
We all have bad days, heck sometimes even bad years, and sometimes our behaviour can be less than pleasant. It is important to stress that no matter how we feel we are always responsible for our own behaviour. Understanding what we need when we are feeling down to help us feel better or to recharge, and verbalising that to friends and family is really important. If you know that you get really angry and want to argue and fight with people when you’re stressed out, perhaps trying a different strategy like taking a really cold shower or venting it all out on paper is better. And be upfront about it – tell people that this is how you feel and what you need to do to feel better. Have those conversations, otherwise people may think your mood and behaviour is all about them.

Humans are social creatures and we often make assumptions about people based upon how they behave. As a side note I’ve found that explaining that a child has, for example, ASD or ADHD, can dramatically alter other people’s perceptions of them in a positive way, as they no longer think of their behaviour as defiant or trouble-making. The belief that a child is doing a certain thing just to annoy you, as opposed to they can’t help their behaviour is a seisemic shift when it comes to how we behave towards them, and how they in turn feel about themselves.

Is this something you think could be useful in your work with young people? Or is this something you already use? Let me know in the comments

Change & Loss in International Schools

Living abroad can be both exhilarating and exhausting, and those who work or study in international schools often find themselves facing a continuous cycle of change and loss. In August there is a flurry of new faces, some incredibly excitable, some massively overwhelmed and others whose sadness from their loss of home drips from them like water, pooling around their feet. Students and staff wonder who are their people – who amongst these newbies will be their friends this year? Maybe they even signed up to be buddies keen to replace the friends they lost last year and are striving for connection.

Then just as the term starts to settle talk begins of contract renewals – who is up for renewal this year? Whispers about who is leaving and about who should probably leave as they clearly hate it but yet are still there year after year, hanging on for the cash while making themselves and all around them miserable…

By early term two, bang in the midst of newbie homesickness, the rumours start flying about who is going and where. We learn that that one family who has kept us sane for the past few years is moving to Europe to be closer to family or the colleague that keeps the department together is heading ‘off to new adventures and we wonder how we will cope without them.

The constant pinging of Whatsapp group expat sales groups between April and June provide the soundtrack to remind you that people are moving on. As the leavers panic about selling everything, the sadness sets in for those left behind.

The stayers start to try and make new friends with other stayers while their houses get fuller with reminders that the only constant in this life is change. The blender from the science teacher, a random assortment of cups to give to your new buddy, some awful picture that your friend clearly bought while drunk in Bali; houses haunted by the appliances of expats past.

And after the goodbye parties and half-hearted promises to always keep in touch you move onto the summer holidays before the rollercoaster starts again.

It may get to the point where you give up trying to make friends. That the loss of losing so many people you care about makes you reluctant to try again. It’s understandable, yet we all need connection – old hands and newbies alike. Unresolved loss can lead to us feeling depressed and thinking it is better if we just don’t even try anymore.

If this is you, please reach out for some support.

Join my Bookclub!

Would you like to know more about mental health? Love reading?

This year I have decided that I would like to read one mental health / self-help book per month. It started with looking at my bookshelf and realising I could do with some much-needed external pressure to make it through my TBR pile! Will you help me? You don’t need to read everything – just read along with the ones you are interested in. No stress, no pressure! We certainly don’t want you feeling more overwhelmed trying to ensure you read and finish everything. I should also admit I am a massive DNFer (did not finish); this is probably to do with the fact I have ADHD and if something isn’t interesting me enough it is almost painful to keep going! So rest assured I will try my best to ensure there isn’t any “dry” books this year.

This is where we start: “It didn’t start with you: How inherited family trauma shapes who we are and how to end the cycle” by Mark Wolynn. This has been on my TBR pile for a long time. Have you read it? If not will you read along?

You can join the Facebook Group here

Thinking about Expat Mental Health

Moving to a new country can be a thrilling yet daunting experience. For expats, the culture shock and language barrier can lead to feelings of loneliness, anxiety, and depression. As an expat living far from home, it is important to prioritize your mental health in order to have a successful transition abroad. Here are a few tips for staying mentally healthy when living abroad.

Prioritize Self-Care
Self-care is the practice of taking time out of your day to relax and do what makes you happy. This could include going on walks with friends or family, indulging in hobbies such as painting or playing music, or even treating yourself to a spa day. Taking care of yourself will help manage stress levels and increase your overall wellbeing while living abroad—so make sure that self-care is at the top of your list!

Find Support Groups
When moving abroad it can be difficult to find new friends and make connections with those around you. Thankfully there are plenty of online support groups specifically designed for expats who are looking for community and guidance during their transition period. Joining these groups can help you feel connected and build relationships with other like-minded individuals who understand the unique challenges that come with living away from home.

Seek Professional Help if Necessary
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the changes associated with moving abroad, don’t hesitate to seek professional help. There are many mental health professionals all over the world who specialize in helping expats adjust to their new environment and manage any feelings of loneliness, anxiety, or depression they may be experiencing due to the cultural differences between their home country and their current location. Remember that seeking professional help is not a sign of weakness; rather it’s a sign that you recognize how important it is to take care of your mental health while living far away from home.

Moving abroad can be both exciting and intimidating but by taking care of yourself, finding support groups online, and seeking professional help if necessary, you’ll be able to tackle any challenges that come up during your transition period so that you can focus on enjoying all the amazing opportunities that come with being an expat! With these tips in mind, there’s no reason why you won’t have a successful transition period while living far away from home! Get in touch if you would like to set up a free initial appointment.

Feeling Stuck? A Step by Step Guide to Dealing with Anything & Everything

Last Saturday I spoke at the Phuket Mental Health Talk about the 4 ways you can deal with anything. These are from Dialectical Behaviour Therapy and are as follows:

  1. Do nothing (Stay Miserable or Make Things Worse)
  2. Solve the Problem
  3. Change how you feel about the Problem, or finally
  4. Radically Accept that you can’t change what has happened / is happening.

Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) was devised by Marsha Lineham to work with highly suicidal clients and incorporates a skills section that the above come from. She asserts that “people want to get better but don’t have the skills to do so – let me teach you the skills”. Although devised for people struggling with their mental health, I think DBT Skills are useful for everyone and I am always pleased when I get the chance to talk at events like the one last Saturday.

If you are interested in learning more about these steps I have a pre-recorded course and workbook that is available to buy here currently on sale for $27 SGD.

Free Online Workshop

In conjunction with World Mental Health Day I am offering a free online workshop on Sunday 9th October at GMT+7 (4-5pm Brunei/Singapore/China, 3-4pm Thailand / Malaysia, or 9am in the UK). The workshop will focus on how to tell if someone you care for is not doing ok and what you can do to help.

To sign up please fill in your details below and I will send you the link


How to find new friends when you move abroad

men and women sitting on concrete bench
Photo by Thoma Boehi on

One of the challenges of moving country is building your social networks. As much as many people have dreams of running off to a desert island to become a hermit, we can also hate to admit that we actually need people around us. Some of us come with ready-made networks – we get jobs in big corporations or in international schools and we are immediately linked in with people in the same circumstances. For others it is more difficult. For ‘trailing spouses’ who may be unable to work because of visa restrictions, or for childless people who don’t get the opportunity to meet other adults at kids birthday parties – sometimes moving abroad can be a lonely experience. So how do you find your people? Here are 3 ideas:

Use Social Media
Put a shout out in a local social media group and ask if anyone wants to hang out. Yes, it can feel a bit vulnerable but there will inevitably be someone else looking for a friend in there too. If you don’t want to do this yourself, wait until a newbie does a shout out!

Find (or start) a group around things you enjoy doing
This can be anything from joining a sports club to attending arts classes. I love reading non-fiction so set up a Non-Fiction bookclub and advertised it via social media channels. I remember sitting drinking tea and wondering if anyone would actually turn up but to my surprise and delight they did! I made some good friends who I would have usually have never met in day to day life.
What do you enjoy doing – how can you link in with others who enjoy the same thing?

Volunteer for a charity or a cause you believe in
Again, this is a common interest suggestion. Love dogs? Want to help children learn to read? By finding something you can get involved with can give you a sense of purpose (this also helps your overall wellbeing) first and foremost but it also will give you the opportunity to meet other people who care about the same issues.

What other ideas do you have? Let us know in the comments

Counselling and Coaching Services

I am pleased to announce I now have availability for new counselling and coaching clients throughout September.

What is the difference between counselling and coaching?

Counselling has a more mental health focus – we talk through what is happening for you in the present and things that have happened in the past. We work together to find ways for you to cope and to uncover patterns that may be contributing to how you feel.

Coaching is more future focused. You may have something you would like to achieve and need help with goal setting and accountability.

Sounds good – what do I need to do?
You can schedule a free 20 minute consultation with me to talk through what you would like help with, and to see if I am a good fit for you. Just fill in the info below and I will get back to you with my available times.

Take care of yourselves out there, Aylssa

“You’re sad because you miss your friends, hey?”

Starting a new school in a new country can be really daunting for your child and for you as a parent. Questions like, ‘will they fit in?’, ‘will they understand the curriculum?’ (or in some cases the language), ‘will they make friends?’, ‘will they get bullied?’, ‘who will they sit with at lunch?’ can swirl around and around in your head.

You have an image of who your child is. Maybe in their last school they were incredibly popular and outgoing with lots of friends, maybe they captained the sports team or won academic achievement awards. It is a mistake to think that they will drop into their new school with the same identity. They are a blank slate to their classmates and teachers – they have no sense of who your child is or was at their previous school. For some this is a blessing, a chance to start again; for others their sense of loss is immense.

Your outgoing child may become more introverted as they adjust to their new environment. You may worry that your child has changed and perhaps there is some bullying or nastiness going on. Check with their teacher, but often there isn’t – it is just there is a period of adjustment which can last, my experience up to a year. You may feel the same way yourself – that you have lost part of who you are. This is because we see ourselves reflected in the relationships we have with others. Who are we if no one knows our story?

It makes sense therefore that we hang on to the relationships and the people who know us from before. It may seem your child wants to spend all their time messaging friends from ‘back home’ rather than concentrating on building new relationships with people in their new country. You may do the same. It is like having one foot in each country. Your child may be physically in your new place but a good chunk of their heart and brain is still in the old one. We gain so much by moving abroad, but we can also lose things in the process – relationships, identities, even things as seemingly trivial as our pillows. By acknowledging what we have lost it helps us grieve the life we left behind and start to embrace our new one. If your child is homesick, simply acknowledging it with a hug can be powerful: “You’re sad because you miss your friends, hey?”

Allow them time to talk to their old friends while at the same time create opportunities for them to make new ones. Extra-curricular activities based around your child’s interests are a great way for them to meet new potential friends. Their new school should be able to inform you of the activities they provide. If they don’t have activities that suit your child’s interests check the local community – expat pages on social media can be a hive of useful information in this respect.

When I worked as a school counsellor, I asked students what advice they would give to a new student starting at an international school. One that had moved schools many times and seemed rather confident that they would be fine wherever they ended up next said:

“I spend about a week watching the other kids figuring out who ‘my people’ are and those who I need to avoid. At break or lunch one day I will approach the group who I think are nice and say “I’m new – could you tell me where the bathroom is please?” It works every time – they offer to take me and because they know I am new they talk to me and ask if I want to hang out with them”

This strategy is so simple yet so effective. By identifying who they thought they would get along with and allowing themselves to seem vulnerable they easily found new friends.

Another thing that new students worry about often is how they will navigate around the school; what happens if they get lost? Ask your child’s new school what they have in place to help support new students. They may have a buddy system where new students are paired with another child in their class, or they may have a transition program where all of the new students are placed together to help support one another. There may be a certain teacher or a place in school that your child can go to if they get lost. Letting your child know what will happen on their first day gives them a sense of security and control and gives you the opportunity to ensure they will have all of the stationary etc they need for the day.

As their parent you are their constant, their safety, their anchor. Therefore, you will get the brunt of their big emotions. They will storm in from school and hand you a big rain cloud of negativity then seemingly be fine 5 minutes later. This is called ‘emotional dumping’ and can make you feel awful. I have listened as homesick teenagers in boarding houses cry down the phone to their parents, only to wipe away their tears and are happily playing pool with their new friends 5 minutes later when their frantic parents call me to ask how they are. As parents you don’t often see how well they are doing, you are their comfort in their time of need and are left holding their big emotional rain cloud while they feel better.

If your child is having difficulties, a good strategy is to ask them to think of solutions instead of sweeping in and trying to fix everything yourself as tempting as that is. This teaches them that they have the resources within themselves to problem solve and be okay. Sometimes though things don’t resolve themselves easily and you and your child need some extra help – this can particularly be the case if you are both going through similar things like acute homesickness. Counselling can help process your emotions and find strategies to feel better. If you are struggling, please get in touch.

Exciting Times for New Teachers

It’s an exciting time of year for new international school teachers! You got the job 6 even maybe 10 months ago and all the planning and preparation is coming to fruition. Soon you will board your plane to your new school, new country, new life. Having done that same journey and having supported hundreds of new families and young people here is what to expect:

It’s going to be exciting. You will look at your new place with (hopefully) the eyes of a kid at Christmas. This is the honeymoon period. Then doubts may start to set in – can you really manage living here? You may feel anxious about how to set up your new way of life and you may feel homesick. Everything was so easy in your home country – you didn’t have to decipher every food label, or figure out how to pay stuff. In my experience as an International school counsellor, this hits a lot of people hard around January. Its mid school year and you’re missing friends and family back home. But this is a NORMAL part of the transition process. Most people bounce back out the other side. They start to realise the small wins they have. They start to believe they can do this! They begin to accept their new country and start to enjoy living there.

So if are are a newbie this academic year – good luck! And remember wonderment, doubt, sadness and acceptance are all normal parts of the transition process.

If you do find yourself stuck and struggling though and would like some online counselling support, please get in touch.

First Aid for Youth Mental Health

I am excited to announce I will be delivering the FAA Level 2 in First Aid for Youth Mental Health on Sunday 29th May 2022. This is wholly online and can be accessed by anyone within South East Asia as it will be held 9am – 5pm Singapore time (GMT+8). The course covers how to identify mental health conditions in young people, the impact of drugs and alcohol, self injury and eating disorders, what to do if you think a young person is suicidal and how to have supportive conversations with young people around their mental health. Price includes e-book.

For more information and to sign up please click here.