Shhhhh…. Don’t Tell
Have you ever kept a secret? A big one? The kind that makes you feel sick or that keeps you up at night? Concerningly our girls are keeping these kinds of secrets and it might be more common than you think.
Sometimes the secrets aren’t huge (to us at least) but to your daughter they are. A lot of the time these secrets are not even their own. The secrets can also belong to their friend who might be engaged in risk-taking behaviour or who is experiencing mental health challenges. Our girls, out of a sense of loyalty, don’t want to share this with an adult as they mostly fear that they will get their friend into trouble. But these kinds of secrets are heavy burdens for anyone to carry, let alone a teenager. So how do we change this?
At Santa Maria, we aim to build powerful relationships that enable our girls to thrive while feeling safe and empowered. Our girls build relationships daily with their classroom teachers and their wellbeing is supported by their Dean and Homeroom teachers. These adults are always available to help with social, emotional, and academic issues and to work with you, the primary carers, and the first teachers of your children.
When our girls run into challenges, as they inevitably will, the relationships that have been established will be key in their support. They have trusted adults they can talk to at school and at home. Unfortunately, we know that regardless of our efforts, some girls simply won’t speak to an adult.
It is very common for young people to choose their friends as confidantes instead of an adult, or, they will try to solve their concerns on their own. Both strategies are fine if they work for them and if they are able to navigate the challenges skillfully. But in order for these approaches to be successful, our girls need access to adequate education and support resources.
What do we do?
The girls have access to a wide range of resources and information on the Mental Health Strategy OneNote. There are loads of other online resources that your daughter might find equally helpful. The key is to find what might work for her and to discover that early, rather than leaving it until a crisis emerges.
Your daughter may not be experiencing challenging emotions at the moment and might feel that she doesn’t need to look at our OneNote resources. She may have a well-balanced school life, social life and recreation schedule. However, mental health is not fixed, some days are better than others. It is normal for a person to experience the full range of human emotions and they aren’t all pleasant. There will be times when she might find some of the courses and suggested activities on the OneNote helpful to her. When your daughter experiences stress, she might listen to a podcast about managing stress or anxiety or perhaps do a mindful meditation.
Our girls need to talk it out
Sometimes the secrets our girls keep are related to friendship issues. You’ve quite possibly had the conversation about how there was a disagreement in the group at school that day, but your daughter makes it very clear “she doesn’t want to talk about it”. Sound familiar? It’s common. In fact, friendship challenges are a significant issue for many teens. Navigating friendship turmoil and changes in friendship groups is also a normal part of teenage life. It hurts at times, but it is to be expected.
Rather than keeping secrets, big or small, we need to encourage our girls to talk it out. Whether your daughter needs to be able to find the words to tell her friend that the comment she made hurt her feelings or if she needs to be able to listen to a friend and offer them support in a mental health challenge, knowing how to listen and respond to a friend who is facing challenges is a great skill-set to develop. You can find a list of useful Listening and Responding tips that were created for our Knowing Girls blog that are now available on the OneNote. It would be very useful to read these with your daughter. You may find there is also helpful information there for you as a parent.
What can you do?
Make conversation about the ups and downs of each day a regular occurrence. Ask your daughter at the end of each day to tell you their highlight and lowlight. You don’t need to solve those lowlights, but you do need to listen to them and acknowledge that you understand how it made them feel. Encourage them to ‘feel it to heal it’. Our girls need to experience emotions in order to be able to recognise them, label them, and manage them. Don’t forget to also focus on the positives that happen to them. What are they grateful for? We know that having a positive mindset actually has a positive impact on mood.
Explore the resources available in the OneNote with your child. They are categorised under subheadings:
- Coping strategies
- How to help a friend
- Mental Health Strategy documents
- Mindfulness techniques
The Raising Children website also offers some excellent advice for parents with pre-teens and teens. Not every strategy will suit every parent, but they offer lots of guidance when it comes to communication on a wide range of topics.
Harness the power of digital technology
Whilst we continue to encourage our girls to seek help when they need it, the reality is that some simply will not. In these instances, it is critical that they have tools available to help them. Nearly every teen has a phone (that is quite possibly never out of their sight) so let’s use this to our advantage. The OneNote contains a How to Help a Friend page that has some digital resources that might appeal to teens.
Beyond Blue is a trusted source in the mental health space and they have designed The Check-in app. The app guides users through challenging conversations and gives steps that the girls will be able to follow so that they can help to offer guidance to any friends in need.
Encouraging open dialogue with trusted adults is, and will remain, our focus. We aim to build connection and ensure every student has an adult they are happy to talk to. However, the resources we have made available on OneNote are wonderful tools that we encourage all to explore.
ReachOut – ReachOut.com helps under 25s with everyday questions through to tough times.
The Check-in App from Beyond Blue
How to help a friend going through a tough time from Headspace
Top Tips for Listening and Responding – from Santa Maria College’s Knowing Girls Blog