Skip to main content

Mental Health Matters: Managing significant life changes

This is the final instalment in our Mental Health Matters series, which highlights issues and challenges identified by our school counsellors and psychologists as ones commonly experienced by students of all ages. Read the rest of the series at the following links:

In the ever-shifting landscape of a student's life, changes big and small can sometimes lead to feelings of being overwhelmed, anxious or distressed.

Whether it’s coping with something like losing a loved one, moving to a new place, parents splitting up or a friendship or relationship ending, students may find it challenging when something significant changes in their lives.Managing%20Life%20Changes%202.png

“For a lot of younger students, this might be the first time in their lives they’re having to contend with a big shift from a routine they may have grown comfortable with and there can be a lot of apprehension around that,” said Selma Smith, director of instruction and continuing education for Surrey Schools.

Other examples of significant life changes for children and youth could include starting kindergarten, heading into secondary school or graduating students worrying about what’s next for them – all of which may cause impacts such as difficulties concentrating, less motivation and trouble sleeping.

Some tips for managing big life changes include acknowledging your feelings to yourself and prioritizing tasks by making an organized list, sitting down with someone and talking about the issues of concern, or removing or shifting any non-essential stressors in life.

It’s also important that youth keep doing things that they enjoy, whether it’s playing sports, learning a new skill or just hanging out with friends. Drown out the negative with the positive!

Smith also noted that students sometimes need reminding that the feelings that accompany any uneasiness are not unusual and they don’t have to deal with challenges on their own.

“We want to make sure students know that it’s perfectly normal to feel overwhelmed or anxious about change and that there are supports available from the district to anyone feeling this way,” said Smith. “We want students to feel comfortable about approaching a trusted adult with these feelings, whether it’s a teacher, principal or other adult in their life.”

For anyone facing big changes in life, the district has created two ‘Navigating Life Changes’ videos to help students and families navigate the issue. There are two versions of the video available, one for elementary aged students and another for intermediate/secondary aged students. Each video also has a corresponding teacher guide to support classroom discussions about the topic in an age-appropriate manner. There is also a parent guide to all the videos, with suggestions on questions to prompt conversations, as well as community resources if families need additional support.
Navigating Life Changes is also available in French, Punjabi, Mandarin and Arabic.

To see the rest of the video series, click here, or select the topic below: 

These videos were developed in partnership with Fraser Health and the Ministry of Education and Child Care, which provided financial support for the project.

image description
Back to top