Vanessa Raphaely is founder of The Village, a Facebook-based online community for parents of South African teens. Here she shares insight gained from a survey 350 of high school students.
The Village definitely knows what’s going on in the lives of the 37 300 parents of tweens, teens and young adults, who make up its membership, and we tell each other exactly what’s on our minds.
But, as a mark of respect for the privacy of our members (who join us to ask for and share advice on the sometimes sensitive issues which arise about their offspring,) we do not allow tweens, teens and young adults to become members.
So we rarely hear direct from the source.
But, in order to best understand our children, we have to find ways to hear their voices. And we have to hear what’s really going on in their lives - not just the sanitised, sometimes fake news, that we are likely to hear from them, as their parents.
To that end, in August 2020, we surveyed 350 of our members' teens.
We did this anonymously, in order to hear what they really thought about being in matric in 2020, their relationship with screens, their mental health and their relationships with us - their parents, or significant adults.
The results were enlightening!
Feedback on this information will form the basis of a series of webinars The Village is running. The first one will focus on how to help our Matric Class of 2020 face their final hurdle in this uniquely challenging year.
Here, as a taster, are five key facts about what its like to matriculate in 2020, straight from the mouths of those going through it.
#1: Only 8.6% of the metrics surveyed said they were "very confident" about being prepared for their final exams.
This, we assume is in line with pupils who will excel - but the comforting news for parents who have sent their kids to both government and private schools, is that 57% feel "confident".
Still, a significant 25% feel "not confident".
Frankly, we understand. This year has been uniquely challenging. What kind of help, do the matrics say they would benefit from, at this late stage?
#2: 44% of the matrics surveyed said that the most helpful thing that their families did for them this year, was to let them work in their own time and "not be on their case".
Trust and belief in their ability to cope, is a significant need from parents, for our young adults.
It has, we know, been incredibly hard for many parents to feel confident and optimistic in any outcomes this year, but for an 18 or 19 year old, knowing that you are respected and trusted, and that your parents believe in you, is important.
Parental confidence and trust seems to be a gift our young adults value highly.
#3: 71% of matrics surveyed said that depression and anxiety had been worse than they expected this year.
This cohort of matrics has has unprecedented challenges to face: The loss of nearly all the perks of being a final year student, no fun, or distractions from the anxiety of finals, from the increased freedom they would usually have been allowed, as they faced increased studying alone at home and pressure in the face of worldwide uncertainty.
The Class of 2020 will have learned many valuable lessons, in resilience, self reliance and independence - but they have lost much, too.
We, as parents, need to be aware of the long tail of this reality as they face their next few years.
#4: 76% of them have suffered anxiety or depression this year.
Whatever we have come to understand about how hard 2020 is, this is not normal. But it is understandable!
Our takeout? As parents we need to acknowledge this about all our teens.
There is much loss and fear in the air, at the moment. Anything we can do as adults, to strengthen our children’s resolve, feed their optimism, courage and bravery, seems to be very much needed.
#5: 30% of the matrics surveyed have used medication for anxiety or depression to support themselves this year.
That is a significant minority of those surveyed.
As a parent - perhaps the strongest message I, personally, took away from these results was that what our children needed least was more pressure.
Perhaps if there is one thing we can do to help them, now, as they face that most challenging of all matric hurdles, is confidence, trust and belief from their parents?
For a matric facing an uncertain future, to know that no matter what lies ahead, their parents are at their side, believing in them?
An optimistic future
One of the very many lessons, 2020 has taught us, is that life often doesn’t work out as one would expect.
It seems it would be extremely reassuring to remind our own children that if Matric 2020 doesn’t work out as they hoped, that, with their parents at their side, there is always a Plan B.
And that next year, is another year!
But that is just my takeout from some of the results of the survey...
Wendy Horn, Director of Education of Metro North Education District, Counseling Psychologist Dr Siobhan Sweeney and Educator and Performance Coach Lindsy Carter Bolus will have deeper and more expert insights, when they join the panel on our webinar on the 14th October.
Jack Scott-King and Max Coleman, the innovative entrepreneurs behind Subjex, the online platform of masterclasses and tips from SA's best schools, made available to all, will have tips and golden nuggets for last minute studying.
We hope it will be a useful value add for all matric families.
Register here to learn what your Matric wants you to know about how to help them finish strong.
Best of luck to all our Classes of 2020. We will be rooting for them all!
Share your stories and questions with us via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Anonymous contributions are welcome.
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