When your teen has been diagnosed with anxiety or depression, it’s worth spending some time thinking about how different areas of their life may be able to support them.
School is an important consideration because it’s where teens spend most of their days. School is a place to promote sticking with as it meets both their academic and their social needs. You may wonder, “What support could I expect from the school if my teen has been diagnosed with anxiety and depression?”
If school is their happy place and puts them in their zone, then brilliant! Keep going.
If you suspect school may be part of the problem – and I’m not laying blame at the feet of either your teenager or the school; it is what it is – then it is time for you to have a conversation with the school.
First of all
Book an appointment with your teenager’s doctor (without your teen there) and discuss their anxiety or depression, and the possible support available. If you think it’s useful, ask for a doctor’s note to excuse your teen from school for a week while you get things sorted.
Phone the school and tell them your teenager will be away for a week. Find out who you need to talk to directly. You need a liaison staff member to contact all their teachers for work they can cover while they’re missing. Bear in mind that this staff member is likely to be a dean of your teenager’s academic year, and they may not know your son or daughter personally.
Make an appointment to talk with this person – either by phone or in person. This will be an essential conversation to have because you’ll be looking to see if school is a viable way forward for your teenager. Schools are busy places, and ringing a teacher out of the blue with the expectation that they’ll be on your wavelength is an unfair assumption to make. This is a critically important conversation for everyone going forward, so treat it importantly right from the start by making space for it to happen.
Be really clear about how the school can help you and your teenager
Clearly ask for:
- A safe space your teenager has access to when things are too much
- Work to be sent home
- Dates for non-negotiable assessments, set by NCEA in New Zealand
Schools are large and busy places
The clearer you can be with your requests to the school, the easier their job becomes. When you have reached an agreement with them, do your very best to stick to your end of the arrangements. And if the arrangements still aren’t working out, make another appointment to jointly work out a way forward.
Enlist all the help and support you can get from the school and make sure you keep the channels of communication open and transparent.
Schools will help as much as they can, and you can expect them to be supportive problem solvers with you. Your teenager is not their problem to fix. At the end of the day, your teenager is your teenager, not theirs. And as their parent, you will be the person who is living with the consequences and life path of the decisions made during their teenage years.
Have a read of this article, Anxiety, depression and making sure your teenager doesn’t fall behind at school for more ideas about how to manage your teenager and school.
Before you have this important conversation with the school, get yourself into the right mindset. If it’s helpful, book a virtual coffee with me.
I’ll listen to your concerns and help you structure your requests so that when the time comes, you’ll be able to ask for what you need. Keep in mind that mental wellness is equally as critical as physical wellness. If your teenager had fallen out of a tree and broken their leg, there would be no problem making adjustments to their schooling. Anxiety and depression deserve the same accommodations.