Lynn Lapsley, Guidance Counselor, Southern Regional High School
In this day and age, I honestly think anxiety is the biggest challenge facing students. I feel that anxiety was always an issue; but especially since COVID hit I think that it’s ramped up more. I really believe a lot of it has to do with social media: them being on all the time is difficult, especially for kids who are worried about a lot of different things that are going on in their lives, and how they look and how they’re perceived. That has definitely caused a lot of anxiety. Even just the need for immediate responses to things that when I was a kid wasn’t there. It seems like the world we live in now is driven by ‘likes’ and ‘follows’ and the ability to just simply enjoy somebody being in front of you and not worrying about how you can share it on social media, is lost on the kids. I mean, it’s really been just 10 years of cell phones and being constantly connected to everything and knowing maybe somebody is doing something when you’re not with them. And it breeds a lot of insecurity and a lot of anxiety for these young kids these days.
A lot of times I feel like as counselors we’re a safe space for kids to go to when they need a break from something or they just need somebody to talk to and not be judged for what they’re going through. I try to be understanding and be a good listening ear. I think that that’s really what our key job is, and the most important thing is just being a safe place that they can go and know that they can talk to you about anything. Because in today’s world where everything is shared, everything is amplified all of the time, to be able to be the person that they know they can trust when you close a door is so important. Maybe it’s about things that are going on at home that they want some advice with or advice about friends, or being anxious about something.
I know it sounds kind of like a cliché but I try to reassure them that everything’s going to be okay, that this period of their life is a very important period. With kids, what they’re going through is very real to them, and it’s very important to them that they are validated. I think that it’s very important to remember that they’re kids – and no matter how big they are, or no matter what type of roles they take on – they’re developing kids that are trying to find their way in life, and it’s not always an easy path for them. As counselors we need to be sure we are the ones guiding them on their journey.
Interview by Gregory Andrus, Portraits of the Jersey Shore