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Provo brothers find school anxiety support through faith

By Genelle Pugmire - | Oct 8, 2021
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16-year-old Luis uses resources from the Jehovah's Witness website. (Courtesy Michael Overholt)
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15-year-old Jayden packs his backpack before school. (Courtesy Michael Overholt)

Teenagers have a lot on their plate during their high school years, and the COVID-19 pandemic has added to many student’s anxieties and stress. For some, even packing a backpack looks and feels different.

Add to that concerns and fears over potential violence in the classroom and some teens and their parents find it hard to attend school at all.

Brothers Jayden and Luis are two high school students finding strength through their family and their faith — they are members of the Jehovah’s Witnesses in Provo.

Back-to-school supplies were a bit different this year for Luis and Jayden. Along with a binder and an array of pencils and pens, 16-year-old Luis and 15-year-old Jayden added face masks, hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes.

Both brothers turned to their faith and their parents for help not just with COVID, but everything.

“I am worried about being pressured into doing things I know are not right,” said Jayden who started his sophomore year. “I also worry about fitting in and how others view me.”

Luis and Jayden, like many students across the country, spent the last school year in a virtual classroom interacting with other students and teachers only via a computer screen. Going back to in-person learning with potential restrictions only added to their anxiety.

Mask wearing and learning how to socialize again with peers are just some of the daily challenges. Parents can help their children with what may be a tough transition.

As parents endeavor to help their children cope with potential back-to-school anxiety, it is imperative that they stay well connected with both the school and their children. Luis and Jayden’s parents, Gessel and Megan, maintain open communication with them about potential pressures at school.

As Jehovah’s Witnesses, they look for practical Bible-based advice to help with any issues or concerns.

“We role-played different scenarios that our kids felt a little unsure about and how we should handle them if they arise,” explained Megan.

While coronavirus variants have stoked pandemic anxieties, this family has endeavored not to overlook other challenges their sons may face.

One of their favorite resources is http://jw.org, the official website of Jehovah’s Witnesses, which is free to all. Topics like “What’s a Real Friend?” and “Beat a Bully Without Using Your Fists” are addressed there in a video series for young people.

There is also information on everything from cyberbullying to How to Succeed at Distance Learning. The website provides answers to several questions using bible-based teachings and adapting them to modern situations.

“My kids really enjoy the section ‘Young People Ask’ on jw.org,” said Megan. “There are tons of different topics that they are dealing with as teens and very valuable advice on how to deal with these situations from the Bible.”

While it is not uncommon to have faith-based support in Utah County with a number of faiths reaching out to members, the eight worship groups of the Jehovah’s Witnesses in Utah County invite families, particularly school-aged kids, to take advantage of the many support programs on their website.

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