The pandemic has left a serious wake of visible and invisible damages.
One of them is the impact of mental health, in particular on children and young people.
I wrote about this issue already during the pandemic as the needs of children and young people were not really considered in some Countries.
There was awareness in England about it and since Summer 2021 a report was released to highlight the need to prioritise the protection of children and young people affected by social restrictions and lockdowns.
“Studies carried out in English schools and other environments by various institutions -such as UNICEF, The Lancet, Barnardo’s, The Children Society, more from Unicef– revealed the psychological and mental impact of lockdown and social isolation on school-age children. Furthermore education specialists, teachers and parents confirmed their concerns as symptoms like anxiety, loneliness, depression and uncertainty have dramatically worsened.” (read the post)
The wake of damages due to the pandemic
Now the impact of Covid on children and young people is becoming more visible with a dramatic increase of school dropout and request for mental support.
In my campaign to promote the AEL programme 2023 I faced two sort of reactions from families and young people:
- those who are really longing to move on and see with great joy the perspective of coming to England for a summer school;
- those who are deeply hesitant as the fears and worries of the pandemic have left a significant scar in their mind.
The category of hesitant young people and families runs the risk of sitting back and stay put in waiting for a safer time before stepping out of their home. This is understandable but not always appropriate.
The effort of “getting out of the wad” is always part of human development: it occurs when a child has to move to the next stage of education; when a family has to move house and maybe the town where they were settled in; when an adult has to change job and so on.
It is also a reality of our daily life as we regularly need to get in and out of our shell, similarly to the organic process of breathing in and breathing out.
Moving in and out of our comfort zone
We move indeed in and out our “comfort zone” several times a day: when we leave our warm bed to go to school or to work, when we leave our comfy sofa to walk our dog, when we go out in the rain and wind to sort out some daily commitments.
There is always a mix of joy and discomfort: discomfort for leaving our comfort zone, joy for going towards a new task.
A similar mix occurs after we accomplished our missions of the day: we enjoy to curled up and relax again into our comfy niche as well as some sadness for the end of our adventure out of the routine.
Teenagers and youngsters want to cross the bridge
A teenager or young person preparing to come to England -for short or long studies- lives to some extent the same mixed feelings: excitement for the new venture awaiting ahead and nostalgia of leaving home.
Like other moments of transition, preparing for the journey abroad is also affected by emotional waves that come to light in different ways according to the age and personality of each child.
Little children love to stay in their shell
Little children for instance love staying within safe boundaries.
They do not need to go too far but play in their familiar space where they enjoy and are creative at best.
They feel secure into a peaceful, non-stressful environment and do not show any need of getting out of their comfort zone. They actually scream and cry if taken out of their space or away from their beloved toys. Out of their comfort zone they might become upset and unhappy.
Odyssey or Ulisse’s journey
Teenagers on the contrary go through a time of troubles: astonishing changes take place in their bodies and they live in frustration, unhappiness, anxiety, dislike of themselves, diminished self-confidence.
Those symptoms are a sort of “emotional-body language” and reveal the child’s need to step out of their comfort zone, because it is time for them “to look over the hedge”!
Exploring a new, extended, unknown horizon is a necessity of their development and in most case it is the their own desire.
While going through positive, healthy experiences as independent human beings, they feel really the benefits of getting out of their usual, familiar environment.
They feel the itchiness to explore the unknown: so, I wouldn’t expect fears or anxiety but joy and confidence.
What does AEL offer to a young person?
The AEL project aims to provide good answers to those needs of a young person and to the concerns of the parents.
We offer indeed a framework where the health, safety and wellbeing of students is the core of the whole project.
In fact learning is most effective when a learner does not feels anxious or frightened, but happy, curious, confident.
We wait for them knowing that they are going to face three main challenges:
- the language,
- the environment,
- the life-style.
We want to mitigate the emotional impact that their adventure implies, by providing an excellent learning environment, selecting a comfortable, welcoming host-family and including them in real-life situations and healthy social contexts that feed them at best and help them flourish.
While here in England, our students will enjoy understanding and speaking their new language without much struggling as English in England is the organic natural means of communications.
They will enjoy growing up in a friendly, welcoming community of English speakers and English learners.
We take extreme care of every learning outcome -whether it is a creative product or an academic achievement- as learning is deeply connected with a harmonious personal development.
Through learning, personal qualities -such as self-esteem, social awareness, personal responsibility- can be well nourished.
Without learning, a child -as well as an adult- regress to a lower stage of development.
The level of achievement is not standardised in our project: of each child we respect the pace of learning and personal learning strategies that we accompany, providing the appropriate learning support and pastoral care.
We look forward to welcoming a new bunch of explorers this summer!