In my role as a guide for students to help them navigate their academic, social and post-secondary potentialities, I am deeply saddened by the news of yet another first-year university student who sought a permanent solution to a temporary problem.
The brief version of this recent news story reported that the deceased young man’s father believed his son to be fully equipped and prepared for the rigors of university. As parents and educators, that is our fiercest hope for all our children who pack up their books, bags and emotional baggage for the sake of life experience and a higher education.
But how are we preparing them? With a strong academic education in high school? For what are we preparing them? To keep deadlines, write essays all while trying to get enough sleep? And how are the post-secondary institutions looking out for these students who are entering the ‘real world’ even younger than ever before?
In my experience, the level of the mighty progressive push to move quickly ahead to the next step of life is on a steady increase and, along with it, the increase of debilitating anxiety among high-achieving students or the perfectly-acceptable-average-achieving students with high-achieving parents. But no matter where the push comes from, the instinctive spirit of the student always pushes back.
Students may self-medicate with distraction or hyper-over-achievement, put themselves to sleep to their feelings of overwhelm with addictive behaviours, self-sabotage to prove their perceived unworthiness or lack of preparedness or they may simply choose to shut down.
A key condition for being “ready” to take any step forward is our capacity to be present in this moment. Grounded in our breathing. Noticing and accepting the way things are.
We can never be fully prepared
and equipped for every contingency.
But, if we can give our children any gifts
to support their natural evolution without
strangling their spirits, it could be the clear
and consistent modelling of the following:
Self-Awareness Know who you are. Seek clarity.
Self-Acceptance Love who you are. Show compassion.
Self-Advocacy Ask for what you need. Say “please help”.
Live these out and experience them as gifts to yourself, for your spirit. Then as gifts to your children. And ultimately, as gifts to the world.