a teacher is smiling while she sits beside a student and help her working on an activity in class

Coping when you lose a teacher you trust

4 min read
18 October 2021

It's not uncommon to develop an attachment to a teacher if you feel able to open up to them. Louisa, 18, shares her tips for coping with the feelings of loss when you leave a teacher you have a bond with behind.

From a really young age, I’ve been very close with my teachers and saw them as parental figures. Even my teacher from primary school gets the odd message from me now and then to check in and say hi. I’ve recently left college, and I’m going to university in just two days when I’m writing this. While I’m unbelievably excited for this new chapter in my life, it means that I have to leave behind my A-level teachers, which has not been easy.

My English teacher was my main source of support for two years, and she was the person I had come to trust most. During the first few months of leaving college, missing her felt the same as grief. It was painful, I felt as though I’d lost a friend. But now, just a few months later, it isn’t that painful anymore.

Teacher attachments are a painful and complex part of mental illness for many young people, but they are not uncommon.

There are lots of reasons someone might become attached to a particular teacher. I think if you struggle with your mental health or have experienced something traumatic, teachers are often the people you go to in order to feel safe, especially if you don’t feel like you can go to your parents or other adults. That doesn’t mean we are in love with our teacher though; this isn’t some weird obsession we have like some people may think. We form these attachments as a response to the trauma that we’ve experienced in our lives. Using judgmental phrases just makes us feel isolated, guilty and strange. Teacher attachments are a painful and complex part of mental illness for many young people, but they are not uncommon.

Tips for students

  • Express your anxieties to your teacher

    They were quite possibly inspired to become a teacher because of a relationship they had with their own teacher. They’ll be touched by how they’ve helped you and made you feel safe.

  • Ask for things that will make the transition easier

    Maybe ask if you can still email or have contact with your teacher for a few months after you’ve left, then the communication is still open, and you still have the option to talk to them if you’re struggling. Be aware though that teachers have important professional boundaries which help to keep both them and you safe. Your teacher will be able to tell you what is appropriate.

  • Remember the things your teacher told you

    You could even write them down and go back to them when needed.

  • Keep hold of helpful emails

    Save any emails they’ve sent you that have helped you and made you feel safe.

Be aware that teachers have important professional boundaries which help to keep both them and you safe. Your teacher will be able to tell you what is appropriate.

Tips for teachers

  • Be really careful with the language you use with your student, so as to avoid them misinterpreting something you’ve said.
  • Give a lot of reassurance to your students, it will help ease their mind more than you think.
  • Take the time to make sure your student understands what you're saying to them and why.
Be really careful with the language you use with your student, so as to avoid them misinterpreting something you’ve said.

Forming attachments to your teachers, or to a favourite person, is much more common than you think. If this has happened to you, please know that you aren’t strange or odd, and that you are not alone. It can be a very rational response to the things you’re going through and have gone through in the past. And remember that your teacher wants the best for you, and they don’t dislike you even if you feel they are not as there for you as you might like. They care about your wellbeing. Look after yourself and know that things will become easier.

More information and advice

We have tips and advice to help you find the support you need. Take a look at our guides.

Where to get help

However you're feeling, there are people who can help you if you are struggling. Here are some services that can support you.

  • YoungMinds Textline

    Text YM to 85258

    Provides free, 24/7 text support for young people across the UK experiencing a mental health crisis.

    All texts are answered by trained volunteers, with support from experienced clinical supervisors.

    Texts are free from EE, O2, Vodafone, 3, Virgin Mobile, BT Mobile, GiffGaff, Tesco Mobile and Telecom Plus.

    Texts can be anonymous, but if the volunteer believes you are at immediate risk of harm, they may share your details with people who can provide support.

    Opening times:
    24/7
  • Childline

    If you’re under 19 you can confidentially call, chat online or email about any problem big or small.

    Sign up for a free Childline locker (real name or email address not needed) to use their free 1-2-1 counsellor chat and email support service.

    Can provide a BSL interpreter if you are deaf or hearing-impaired.

    Hosts online message boards where you can share your experiences, have fun and get support from other young people in similar situations.

    Opening times:
    9am - midnight, 365 days a year
  • Samaritans

    Whatever you're going through, you can contact the Samaritans for support.

    Opening times:
    24/7

Thanks for sharing your story Louisa, 18

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