When most of us think of the New Year, we think of January 1st. As a student or parent, however, we know it differently. The new year begins sometime in August, depending on where you are in the education process. I’ve always found this process to be quite cyclical in its emotional pattern, and one that is fraught with a variety of sentiments throughout its life cycle. One common thread across the pattern, though, is the shared emotions it brings at the beginning and the end.
On the first day of kindergarten (and the days leading up to it), young children are excited to start their educational journey. Parents, on the other hand, understanding what it entails, are worried and stressed, oftentimes concerned about how their child will react to the changes taking place in each of their lives. The reaction tends to be similar, regardless of the prep work ahead of time. A child’s excitement quickly turns to fear and homesickness, the minute they watch their parents walk out the classroom door for the first time in the morning, leaving them alone with their classmates and teachers. This separation anxiety is difficult to overcome, not only for the children, but for the parents as well, as they wrestle with the emotions of leaving their little ones behind for the first time.
By the time the children reach middle school, they’ve become experienced with the separation. They’re older, and they understand better what to expect, so the transition occurs more smoothly.
Once high school comes around, they are excited once again, about their school, the activities, clubs, and sports they’re interested in, seeing the friends again they’ve made through the years, and viewing themselves as more mature and “cool,” now that they’re in the latter stages of their educational journey. As for parents, they’re thinking about grades more seriously if college is on the horizon. They want to make sure they’re guiding their child correctly, keeping them focused, on the right path, away from negative distractions and influences, all while allowing them the space to grow and mature into their own unique selves and personalities.
As for those heading off to college, the military, or full-time employment on a permanent basis after their recent graduation, this time of year brings even more complex issues and concerns. Independence suddenly becomes a predominant aspect of their lives. To this point, many of their decisions have been made for them; their paths have been structured in a way that leaves only a little room for elective choices and opportunities. Now, however, their decisions are their own. Parents are still there to provide advice; and yet, in reality, the parental influence has less potency than it had previously up to this point. As adults, they can and do begin to separate themselves and take control of their lives, often in ways parents never expected. The results can range from exciting to scary, surprising, pleasing, unsettling, impressive, worrisome, satisfying and fulfilling.
Yes, emotions run the gamut this time of year, depending on where you are on the spectrum. The ten months that follow will bring with them lots of experiences, memories, friendships made, lessons learned, good times and bad, ups and downs, and yet through it all they persevere, and grow and mature into the people they will ultimately become. Life throws a lot of obstacles and challenges their way, and they have to learn how to navigate the rough waters. These challenges help to prepare them to manage comparable ones they will ultimately face the rest of their lives. It gives them the confidence that they have what it takes to overcome those trials and come out on the other side stronger, smarter, and better as a result.
As for us parents, just remember the excitement the end of the school year brings, accomplishments earned, mountains conquered, and all the wonderful memories made throughout this time. And let that be your source of inspiration to get them started out on the right foot, and help you to be confident you can handle not only helping them manage their lives during this time, but also to manage yours in the process with great success.
Here’s wishing everyone good luck and many achievements in the new (school) year!