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Helping Sam

This step will help you use the Bioecological model to look at layers of support for Sam.


Please read the article which explains Sam’s response and different ways to support sam. We can use the Bioecological systems model and the teenage iceberg to help us understanding Sam’s response.

Sam’s responses using the Bioecological model

We can see from the figure below that Sam is surrounded by both subtle and overt messages that he needs to do well in his tests. This may feel like a lot of pressure. These messages are telling him that failure in this test could have a life-long impact. This may be having a detrimental effect on his self-esteem.

He’s getting validation from his friends. They are a source of fun and distraction. They are an obstacle to his academic success but they are positive factor in his wellbeing.

Figure 1: The bioecological systems model. The image is broken down into 5 circled which fit inside of each other. This inner circle represents the child and the circles going further away represent the wider societal impacts. The inner circle - circle 1 - represents the child. The next circle outwards - circle 2 - represents microsystems. The next circle outwards - circle 3 - represents meosystems. The next circle outwards - circle 4 - represents Exosystems. The final circle - circle 5 - represents Macrosystems. More information on these systems can be found in the text below.

The behaviours that Sam is displaying are challenging, argumentative and aggressive. It’s easy to understand that his parents may respond in the same way. If we are going to help Sam with this problem then we need to explore the feelings and attitudes that are under the surface. It’s possible that he’s feeling stressed, anxious, worried. It sounds like he’s ruminating about the problem and this is causing physical symptoms of anxiety such as feeling sick. Angry arguments aren’t going to make him more likely to revise.

What could we do in this situation?

First of all it’s important to recognise that the action plan will depend on Sam, his parents and the relationship between them. There isn’t one action plan that will suit everybody. We also need to recognise that the actions should be reciprocal. They should work for Sam and his parents.

  1. Try to get to the root of the problem. Recognise the pressures, that Sam is under, to do well, and talk to him about those pressures. What is his perspective and how does he feel? Creating a situation that will encourage Sam to talk about his anxieties will be beneficial. Sam may create obstacles to this discussion because he wants to avoid the topic altogether so his parents may need to be patient and reassuring.
  2. Develop a clear plan of action. Could his friends or teachers be involved in this plan. What is a realistic goal for Sam? What can he do without becoming anxious? Would a schedule help? The plan needs to be developed collaboratively and needs to work for Sam and his parents so some compromise may be necessary.
  3. Teenagers respond well to reward. What would be a reasonable reward for Sam if he achieves his goal? When we are trying to change our behaviour it is useful to have an extra incentive until that behaviour becomes automatic.
  4. After the test Sam and his parents could chat about how it went. If it didn’t go well they, both Sam and his parents, should try to avoid being judgemental or accusatory.
  5. Recognise that this is an on-going process. It takes time to change habitual behaviours so it’s likely that Sam and his parents would return to their regular patterns of interaction unless they make a conscious effort to change those patterns each time they arise.

This won’t be an easy process and it may not always be successful but each time we attempt to make a change we can learn and perhaps do better next time.

This step will help you to explore ways of dealing with challenging behaviour in a constructive way. It will also help you to recognise how addressing challenging behaviour can be difficult.

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Social and Emotional Development: Supporting Teenage Wellbeing

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FutureLearn - Learning For Life

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