by Rachel Stephenson, Senior School Voorschoten Assistant Librarian
There is a growing awareness of the special challenges to understanding the mental health and well-being of teenagers. With exam stress, body image issues and the added pressure of living in an ‘always connected’ world, educating and supporting teenagers (and their parents) about good mental health is paramount for their happiness and well-being.
‘The Teenage Brain Woman’
Nicola Morgan – a woman known for her insightful knowledge and research on the teenage brain – visited the British School in the Netherlands Senior School in Voorschoten in May 2019. She spoke to parents about supporting teenagers in the modern world, and spoke with Years 7, 8 and 9 on issues written about in The Teenage Guide to Friends and The Teenage Guide to Life Online.
I first heard Nicola Morgan present at the School Library Association conference in 2017. The author chaired a discussion with MIND ambassador and author, Katie Thistleton, and successful Young Adult authors Holly Bourne and Sara Barnard. All four write about the psychological pressures on young people today and spoke about how books (fiction and non-fiction) can support teenagers with many of the issues they are facing growing up in the modern world.
This session inspired me to invite Nicola to the BSN, as I saw the need in giving BSN parents and students access to her science-based but accessible advice on issues such as stress, screen time, sleep, and friendship.
5 Tips for Coping with Exam Stress
A very real issue for students in Year 11 and 13 is exam stress. As a parent with a daughter about to sit her A-levels, I know all about the pressure that teenagers put on themselves to do well and get a place at the university and the programme they want. I am also aware from my other children that everyone reacts differently to stressful situations.
In Nicola Morgan’s information sheet on exam stress, she highlights that a small amount of stress is good, because it produces adrenaline to help you perform at your best. It is long-term stress that can be detrimental. Here are her top 5 tips for dealing with it:
- Make sure you know how each exam is structured and how many questions you’re to answer.
- Don’t bottle up your worries – talk to someone; ask for help early.
- Plan a revision timetable; and include rest time (here’s a template you can use).
- Practise relaxation techniques/anti-panic strategy (listen to my Relaxation technique recording here).
- Spend at least 30 minutes a day on at least one of these: reading a book you like, having a bath, listening to music, walking, exercising, watching a funny film, doing a hobby, or something else that relaxes you. Don’t use a computer or phone during this time.
This year’s Mental Health Awareness Week (13-19 May 2019) theme is body image. This can be a significant struggle for teens due to the “perfect” images they see on social media sites, films and advertisements. We look forward to Nicola’s new book Body Brilliant, which will be out in July 2019. This highlights the psychology around positive and negative body image and practical ways to help.
We’re all bombarded with information and images – through the media and our peers – about being too big, too small, being cool, being popular or having the ‘right’ kind of clothes. Nicola’s book addresses the body issues that nearly everyone worries about at various points in their lives and gives practical and mindful solutions to work through worries, using real-life examples, quotes and anecdotes from adults and young people interviewed especially for this book.
Nicola Morgan’s Wellbeing Books Available in the SSV Library
The book covers many aspects of life: changes that happen in adolescence; looking after your physical health; making your brain work well and boosting mental health. There are tips and activities based on the principles of FLOURISH: Food, Liquid, Oxygen, Use, Relaxation, Interest, Sleep and Happiness.
This is a book for families to share: a way for teenagers, their parents and carers to inform themselves about the many advantages and risks of life online. Includes practical strategies!
The Teenage Guide to Friends tackles the all-important subject of friendships. It is, really, a basic guide to human psychology in the context of the behaviour of people around us. It has sections on making friends, being a good friend, how to deal with problems, not fitting in, toxic friendships and frenemies, building empathy and many reasons why people behave as they do to you.
The teenage years can be stressful, for parents and teenagers, and sometimes full of dark fears. The Teenage Guide to Stress puts everything into perspective and shows young people that they are not alone and that there is help, whether their worries are small or big. Stress can affect us at any time of life and TTGS teaches the skills to thrive through stress.
Blame My Brain was the first book (ever!) to show teenagers what is going on in their heads. It changed the way adults think about adolescence. It speaks directly to teenagers but parents and teachers usually grab it and devour it eagerly. What scientists have discovered about the teenage brain will amaze, empower and reassure you, whether you’re a teenage or an adult who cares about teenagers.
Nicola’s website is a fantastic resource for parents, teachers and students alike. It has information on all her fiction and non-fiction books and additional resources such as a relaxation audio. New on the site is a news article about her visit to Senior School Voorschoten, and you can even ask her a question (in fact, she encourages it)!
Nicola is active on Twitter here.