It’s August twenty-eighth and another summer has slipped past. In my house we’ve got the back to school supplies covered and this weekend my partner will take the kids shopping for necessary back to school clothes (I hate shopping, except for Fluevogs and books). Catalogues are bombarding us with backpacks and lunch bags, flashy new shoes and pencil cases. Sending my kids back to school is not the happiest time of year for me, but I know I need the imposed structure that comes with school days.
Over the past few weeks in my office I’ve been seeing many of The Other Kids going off to school, The Big Kids who are heading away from home to college or university. I’ve known most of these clients for a year or more. They pop in to The Nook when they need help managing heartbreak, dealing with family issues, or conquering anxiety. We have a great rapport and I genuinely respect them. They are thoughtful, responsible, young adults who are curious and ready for a new adventure.
The range of support these kids receive from their families is broad; some are paying for everything independently – tuition, travel, & accommodations. Others have every detail taken care of for them, right down to having their dorm bed made up complete with throw pillows. Regardless of the level of practical or financial support parents can give, there is one thing all of these students crave.
Emotional support. A vote of confidence. The security of knowing someone is thinking of him or her. The assurance that they will always be welcome back home.
My own years at university, Waterloo and then McGill were blissful. I’ve made my kids pinkie swear that they’ll go to McGill. Since my youngest is just entering grade three, it’s still too early to apply. The autonomy and independence were heady. Classes were fascinating (except for statistics) and I loved the freedom of walking and riding my bike everywhere. I ate what I wanted when I wanted. I could read until 3:00 am and nap at 4:00pm if I so desired. I lived off campus my first year with second year students who were kind and patient showing me the ropes.
I wish all of my clients heading off to school could have such an amazing experience. But I know anxiety has a way of hijacking the best-laid plans, and turning an exciting adventure into a fraught quest. So this is for you, my bright, affable young clients heading off to school. Please remember this: you have what it takes. You’ve worked hard to learn tools and techniques to put the anxiety in its place. Breathe deep. Try to get enough sleep and nourish your body. Make sure your mantra includes “I can manage this”. Slow everything down if you need to & don’t be shy to ask for help.
To the parents of these amazing kids, well done. You raised young adults who are responsible and respectful. They are a pleasure to be around and they know right from wrong. But don't forget: they still need you. Phone calls or texts to let them know they’re in your thoughts. Funny cards, brief letters, or care packages seem to have a magical way of arriving on the day they need it most. Your baby may look all grown up, they may tower over you, but they still value your love and support. Knowing you’re rooting for them and proud of them is the best gift of all. Give generously.