Dr. Deb’s Mental Health Vitamin: Back-to-School lessons
Dr. Deb Wade
GCU Vice President, Counseling and Psychological Services
It’s that time of year again! Schools are opening and kids of all ages are preparing to return to the classroom.
Whether the “kids” are just beginning kindergarten, entering middle school or high school, going away to college or returning to school as a working adult … this is indeed an exciting time. But it also can be a time of myriad emotions.
So let’s peek around and explore some of the realities that go along with this time of year … in the emotional realm!
- Back-to-School Anxiousness is OK! Give yourself permission to feel myriad emotions, whether you are the parent sending your children back to school or are the student, empty-nester and/or working adult returning to school. The end of summer and the beginning of the school year evoke emotions that might be all over the grid! A bit of grief may be experienced because you are mourning the end of the carefree, flexible summer, which allowed extra time for fun, vacations and possibly staying in your PJs till noon! At the same time, you might be experiencing some joy in the return of structure, routine, predictability and expectation. Don’t give in to the notion that you are goofy for having all these extreme feelings; rather, give yourself permission to feel them … and to enjoy!
- Back-to-School Emotions can be Extreme … and that’s OK! When it’s time to return, do you experience a bit of nostalgia? Is that nostalgia for BOTH the sweet memories of the recent summer as well as the memories of school-days-gone-by from a simpler era? Do you feel a bit of dread – at the reality that returning to school also means study hall, tests, papers, projects, oral presentations? Do you feel sadness – at the reality that as each school year begins, life is moving forward and we’re all getting older each year? Do you feel a bit of anticipatory excitement at the prospect of new teachers/professors and new classrooms along with old and new friends? All of these emotions, and more, might be jumping on you at break-neck speed! That’s OK … emotions remind us that we are alive!
- Back-to-School Reminds Us that Life is all about Change … and that’s OK! That old cliché, “the only thing that is certain is that life is not certain,” certainly rings true here! Life is about transition stages. As parents, we might …
- Cry when our “baby” goes off to kindergarten.
- Be amazed when our “baby” advances to middle school.
- Be astonished that our “baby” is in high school.
- And … cry when our “baby” goes off to college.
As returning-to-school adults, we might …
- Be nervous at the prospect of sitting in a classroom again.
- Be scared that everyone in the class will be younger than you (probably not true).
- Be fearful that you’ve forgotten how to study and take tests.
- Be excited and proud that you are putting action to your goals of returning to school.
Yes, the notion of Back-to-School is so much more than just buying school supplies, new clothes and new shoes. It is a reminder to all of us that life is precious, that it is moving forward, that our little ones may not be little anymore and that it never too late to achieve a goal!