Working with problems related to schooling is a huge challenge since it is necessary to handle a range of variables: from biological and maturational ones to familial ones, also adding the extra layer of challenge that is being able to approach adolescents with the flexibility they need in some aspects but with the firmness required in others. Quite a challenge!
The hinge between primary school and secondary school involves the development of resources at different levels for children and teenagers. The work that I perform on problems related to schooling arises as a result of the problems that we encounter in the clinic every day. I began to observe a series of similar factors and patterns: teenagers in the first years of secondary school, very often without a history of problems in elementary school, who encounter cognitive, organizational, behavioral, and/or emotional difficulties when it comes to being able to face the changes the new level of education involves. These difficulties frequently result in the parents being disorientated about this situation and, generally, alters the family functioning.
In cognitive terms, the complexity of the information and assessments and the material with which are used in secondary school implies the handling of formal operations and the ability to make abstractions. Also, the number of subjects, the lack of reminders from teachers, the need to synchronize their schedule and to plan their activities are a challenge for kids with little organizational capacity. On other occasions, the difficulties arise from inhibition when asking the teacher and the fear of being exposed in front of the group. Likewise, the behavior towards the task, the response to the difficulty, the developing personality, and the motivation of each child lead to different scenarios. All this occurs at a time when aspects that had been stable and safe begin to change at the beginning of adolescence.
It is a very varied workshop. According to the diagnosis of the problem:
I developed an approach plan between the family, the teachers, and the school cabinet for a 13-year-old patient with organizational and planning difficulties.
I worked with football matches teaching Martín, a 14-year-old patient, how to sequence a story, who the protagonists are, and how to account for the understanding of a text. Then we used notes on sporting events so that he would learn to identify the defining aspects of the text.
I identified symptoms of social anxiety in Jazmín that affected her school development since it was not within her possibilities to consult teachers and classmates. Working specifically on shame and inhibition, she improved not only her mood but also her school performance.
Marcela, Julián’s mother (11 years old), called me overwhelmed because she had lost control of her son’s routines and he answered her inappropriately. Her grades were very low, and she didn’t know how to deal with the situation anymore. I proposed to try some changes for her. I never had an interview with Julian! She decided to try these changes and, although he still does not study with much enthusiasm, not only has his school performance improved, but the relationship between them has taken a turn for the better.
Sol showed up telling me: “School makes me suffer”. When evaluating what the causes for her suffering were, it was enhanced by perfectionism and the self-demand to “be the best.” We were able to work on some of those ideas and Sol now suffers less. In the case of Sol, part of the work carried out with her prevents the development of this perfectionism and self-demand in other occasions where it could have had appeared. This is very common in working with teenagers.