Play 'thought detective' to help children anxious about school return

Primary school children. Picture: Getti images

Primary school children. Picture: Getti images - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Many young people in Sidmouth are returning to school this month. For some this will be an exciting transition, for others this is cause for worry and anxiety. This return will be particularly hard for those that find school difficult, are socially anxious or feel panicked in crowded places, among other reasons. 

I am sure even parents, like myself, are also feeling a mixture of excitement (I can finally drink a cup of tea in peace!) and anxiety too…

One tool I use within my wellbeing practitioner role with Young Devon is called ‘Parent Led CBT’. This week, I have been talking with local parents about playing ‘thought detective’; a key element of ‘Parent Led CBT’ and a useful approach when our children are feeling worried or anxious.

Playing ‘thought detective’ involves coming alongside your child or teenager when they are worried, and exploring these worries with them, without judgement or reassurance. Like sports coaching, or being a judge in a court; you help them work through their worries for themselves, and in doing so you reinforce their own capability to manage the situation and their thoughts around it. 

It might sound something like… 

“I don’t want to go to school!” 

“Okay, tell me more about that…”

Most Read

“I’m worried no one will talk to me” 

“What makes you think that?”

“Bob hasn’t text me back, and Frank never talks to me anyway” 

“Okay, what else?”

“I haven’t spoken to anyone for ages” 

“So, you’re worried no one will talk to you. But, what else might happen?”

“I guess my teachers might say hello…” 

“Well that would be a start! 

“Tara might talk to me, she talks to everyone! And I did bump into Edgar the other day and he smiled at me…” 

“It sounds like some people might not talk to you, but others may say hello…”

This is the way I have been trained to talk to young people, and there is much research behind it, backing it as an effective way to help build young people’s confidence. 

As a youth worker for Young Devon, playing ‘thought detective’ fits with our strengths-based approach when delivering support, recognising the innate ability young people have to work their own way through life challenges, and helping them to develop skills and resilience along the way. 

I hope that by sharing this CBT Wellbeing tool with you today, it might help to ease your children’s or teenager’s nerves and anxiety around going back to school.

If you know a young person who is struggling during this difficult time, and would benefit from our support, please contact us. You can also visit our Coronavirus Resource Hub for free Wellbeing resources and tips, as well as real-life inspiring blogs from Young Devon staff, parents and young people.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter