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Jun 18, 2020

Healthy Living: Helping Students Cope with Back to School

Two weeks ago, we reported the increased anxiety levels recorded by mental health and medical professionals in Belize.  This week, our senior students have all reason to be anxious as they returned to classes to prepare to take the CSEC exams in July. It’s a high-stress situation in an average school year, but 2020 has been anything but ordinary. So how can parents and families help their seniors get back into the right frame of mind? We have some tips in tonight’s Healthy Living.


Marleni Cuellar, Reporting

High school classrooms are no longer empty. After being shuttered for almost three months, the seniors are back at their desks. They are masked and spaced six feet apart. While the pandemic robbed them of most of the senior year traditions, they have not escaped the regional standardized tests. That is the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate or CSEC, which in Belize we still call the CXCs.  Mental Health Therapist, Jennifer Lovell, says this is a time that parents need to be most understanding to their children. She says test anxiety is only one of the challenges that these teens may be facing.


Jenny Lovell

Jenny Lovell, Mental Health Therapist

“Here we have seniors who have been out because of the pandemic; been out of school and in a lot of cases they have been the babysitter at home, they haven’t really had a routine where they included studying in it. For some them, they have been attached to the electronic gadgets, and they have not really been focusing on studying, and I think everybody had the idea that the CXCs would have been put off this year or pushed far back, so this was a shock to a lot of these children and to the parents.”


Shock aside, the examinations are happening. So we asked Lovell, for some advice for parents to help their teens through this transition. The most critical step, according to Lovell, is to re-establish routines.


Jenny Lovell

“Parents, please try to be understanding. Be encouraging. Be supportive. When they come home, some of the important things. Remember I talk about this before. They need to sleep. Let them get sleep. They need about nine to ten hours of sleep. They also need to get some exercise as parents try to encourage them or go with them. So that they are getting these things in preparation. They need lots of sleep before the exam, and I don’t mean the day before or two days before. They need to be building their resistance and their strength back up because they haven’t been doing these things.”


Secondly, she urges parents not to add to the pressure these children may be experiencing. And to realistically manage their expectations.


Jenny Lovell

“You can’t go back and learn four years of material, so what you want them to do is to learn test-taking strategies. How to take a test.  Parents are really going to have lower their expectations and really focus on the mental health of their children. You can’t put that much stress on them. The marines have a statement: “Excellence. Strive for excellence.” They don’t say strive for perfection because we can’t get perfection. There’s no way we will ever get perfection even though parents want kids to have perfect scores. They want straight A’s. They want the best scores on all these CXC’s. It’s not going to happen or at least don’t pressure your child to do that. Talk to your child about doing the best that they can do. And if you have given your best, then I am proud of you.”


Support and encourage them and most importantly, keep the communication going.


Jenny Lovell

“Be supportive. Be encouraging if your child is so stressed out that they don’t want to study and they want to escape in their games. You want to sit with them and fight out, talk to your child, listen to your child to hear what they are worried about, what they are scared about and listen to them then encourage them.”


Now, not all students are anxious about performance; some have already checked out, which can be an equally frustrating situation for parents. Here is Lovell’s recommendation.


Jenny Lovell

“I met one yesterday because the child has graduated. He has been accepted to college, and he’s like why do I need CXC’s, and she’s like I already paid for these. So again, you need to sit with your child and talk with your child about the importance.  Those CXC’s are important, let them know that just because you graduated and because you have been accepted to a college doesn’t exonerate from passing these exams. These exams will show what you learned over the past four years.”


Lastly, she pleas for parents to be understanding and to be considerate of all that these seniors have already sacrificed.


Jenny Lovell

“You know the same way parents want to be able to go and see the graduation and say that’s my son or that’s my daughter graduation. The same way you want to feel that pride and let your friends see you and take pictures of you out there. That child spent four years. When they get into high school, they are looking towards graduation that is the highlight of their high school experience, and it’s just robbed. They lost it.  No other teenagers in the history of anything have ever had to go through what our kids right now are going through.”

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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