On the Friday before school started, we invited our new grade 7 students and their families to come and move in to their lockers, practice with their locks, and just generally reacquaint themselves with the school before the big day. We weren’t able to access any student information this summer, so we had to rely on the power of the local town Facebook discussion page to spread the word, and I was happy to see as many families as we had!
It was an awesome opportunity to take away some of the stress and anxiety of a pretty big change.
And not just for the students.
I heard several parents say that they were more nervous about their kids coming to the high school than their kids were. I come from a long line of worriers. I get it!
Fear is a funny thing. As humans, it’s kept us alive for millennia. It helps us recognize danger, and then to run from it! Athletes and performers know that the feeling of fear is a natural thing. I always told my kids that if you’re at the starting line, or ready to go onto stage, and you DON’T feel anything…then that’s when I’d worry.
Managing that fear is something that we need to learn to do on our own. Of course, it doesn’t happen instantly and it doesn’t happen without support. Like I wrote last week, we weren’t helicopter parents hovering over our bubble-wrapped kids, and we didn’t lawnmower down every obstacle in their path. But that doesn’t mean that we didn’t help them manage their fears. I crawled in with them when they were scared of the dark. I talked kids into the pool for swimming lessons, onto the ice for CanSkate, into competitions and music festivals and at starting lines on the track. And we weren’t always successful. There’s the year we got kicked out of the parent & tot swim group because the fear was just too strong! (That was a little bit embarrassing.) Into adulthood, those become more figurative than literal, but the support is still there.
We are all afraid at times.
All of us.
And not just the spiders, heights, and public speaking ones.
Afraid that we aren’t smart enough, or good enough, or patient enough, or interesting or funny or likeable or significant or understood…
Oh yah. Fear is helpful, until it isn’t.
As part of a class discussion this week, we were talking about our fears. And I was pretty shocked at two things: almost everyone felt safe enough to share their fears out loud, and as much as teens may come across as fearless, they aren’t. I didn’t write our list down, but suffice it to say, I wouldn’t have guessed ‘dying alone’ would have been on it.
So how do we mitigate these fears? Keep them from dominating our life? From limiting us?
To keep our fears from being the only voice we listen to?
I was so proud of the kids that day. By putting their words into the air, trust was built. And that’s likely the first step. To realize that we are all just people, and that everyone else has fears too. Some of their fears will require seeing beyond the group to the individual. Relationship will be the key, and there will be more days to manage those fears, and to learn, and to grow.
The discussion also gave me another opportunity to use my favorite quote: “There is no courage without vulnerability.” Thank you Brene Brown! That gave them pause to think.
I follow the work of the Walk Alongside group, and how they advocate for relationship building amongst students, families, and schools. I think, for me, these ideas also help to take away the fear of the ‘other’ and to make meaningful, personal, connections with parents.
It also made me think of how we need to walk alongside our fears.
I mean, it’d be really cool if they all just went away and we left them behind in the dust. But yah. Ain’t gonna happen.
Acknowledging that our fears are there is certainly better than ignoring them. And when they start to drag us along for the ride, there are others walking alongside us for support to help rein them in.
“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” Nelson Mandela
Walking alongside you this week if you need me!
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy...okay website template!