Tuesday, August 21, 2012


With September quickly approaching, many of us are experiencing that shift of energy that accompanies the start of each school year.  We begin thinking about wrapping up the summer and transitioning into fall.  We begin to make arrangements for ourselves and our children, readjust our lives, and prepare for the first day of school and the excitement that follows. 

As we get caught up in the excitement of the school year, however, we often feel ourselves getting overwhelmed.  We stress ourselves out about practicalities, tending to the planning, the details of activities, the logistics of schedules, and the added responsibility of schoolwork, and we forget to take a moment to slow down and gaze at the bigger picture.  We forget about the softer side of things, and overlook the emotions the often accompany the transition in to school. 

It can be so easy to forget to check in with our children and ask them how they feel about the impending school year. We often assume that because our young ones have a backpack full of supplies, new clothes in their closets, and shiny shoes on their feet, they have everything needed to start the school year.   We like to consider them prepared because they have attended the open house, met their teachers, and memorized their schedules.  Or because our kids know where their lockers are located, they are ready to roam the halls of middle school.  It can be so natural to allow the anticipation and excitement of senior year to overshadow the anxiety and fear of graduating.  Likewise, we often tend to assume that our college students are prepared for the reality they are about to encounter, and perhaps most often, we forget that parents of school-aged children and empty-nesters are handling the adjustment with ease. 

Yet, in truth, true school readiness is so much more than material things, basic skills, and partial truths.  Of course it is true that academic performance and effort is important in school, but school is so much more than that.  True it is classwork, assignments, concentration, and organization.  But to succeed as students, our children must also feel supported by their parents and their teachers.  They must have food in their bellies, adequate sleep, and the ability to manage their emotions.  They must feel a sense of belonging amongst their peers and be able to work in teams.  They must have at least some sense of self, problem-solving skills, and perspective.  Similarly, they must be equipped with coping skills, stress management techniques, and resilience. 

Unfortunately, though, it is all too easy to overlook the importance of such survival skills.  Or perhaps more commonly, such skills are difficult to teach and are therefore not adequately addressed.  Because of this, these intangible assets often fall lower on our list of priorities than they really should.  And while it is admittedly difficult for parents to instill such traits in our children and feel confident in their ability to do so, it is paramount to their well-being, happiness, and success. 

This year, parents and support people, I encourage you to take extra care as you prepare your children for the 2012-2013 school year.  As you tend to the preparations and details of school readiness, ensure that you also tend to the full spectrum of your child’s needs.  Remember that as one part of system, collaboration is crucial.  Check in with young ones regularly, encourage them to express their concerns, remain involved in their lives, and support them as they embark on this year’s journey. 

Monday, August 6, 2012

A Reason, A Season

There once was a man who wanted to teach his four sons a valuable lesson: He wanted them to learn how to refrain from passing judgment too quickly. So with this lesson in mind, he sent each of them on a separate quest with the same goal. Each of his sons was to travel, in turn, a great distance to a far off pear tree he knew of. He helped each of them prepare for their journeys, and sent them on their way, one by one.

His oldest son was instructed to go first. He left after the first snow fall, and returned just before spring. The second son embarked on his journey shortly after the arrival of his brother,and returned early summer. The third son left promptly thereafter and was gone for the duration of the summer. The fourth son finally took his turn that autumn,and returned just before winter.

Once all four sons were gathered back home after their journey, their father called them together to describe what they had seen. The first son, who had traveled to the pear tree during the winter, said that the tree was ugly, twisted, and lifeless. The second son, who had been gone that spring, disagreed. He said that the tree was covered with green buds and was full of promise. The third son, who had seen the tree in the summer, said that it was laden with sweet smelling blossoms, and he described it as the most graceful thing he had ever seen. The fourth son disagreed yet again; he said that the tree was bountiful, drooping with fruit, and full of life and fulfillment.

After listening to his sons, the man explained that each of them was right, as they had seen only one season of the tree’s entire life. He asked his sons to imagine what the tree had looked like during the other seasons of its life. How it had looked when it was just a sapling, and what it might look like when it is twisted and old. The man told his sons that they cannot just a tree by only one season. That the essence of that tree, and all that it is has offered in its lifetime, can only be measured when all its seasons have passed.

And so it is with people, is it not? Quite often, we judge ourselves and others too quickly. We base our perceptions on just one season out of many. Too often, we conclude that “what we see (now) is what we (will always) get”. And this is not true. Like the pear tree, we humans have many seasons that we are continuously cycling through. We each experience the harsh resilience of winter, the promise of spring, the beauty of summer, and the fulfillment of autumn. Yet, if we are to judge ourselves too quickly and only acknowledge one season, we lose site of the true meaning and value behind the bigger picture.