Heraclitus was a philosopher of Ancient Greece who believed that the universe is constantly changing. Plato credited him with saying that “everything changes and nothing stands still”, or as I first understood it, “there is nothing constant save change”.
I have often heard it said that things are changing faster and faster. Although there is truth to that, I think this belief may stem in part from the fact that as we get older we become more and more resistant to change. We are constantly having to deal with change and it just gets to be too much at times. We are often envious of what seems to be a child’s innate ability to cope with change.
But I don’t believe children are innately capable of coping with change. Rather, I think it is a frantic survival technique on their part. From a baby’s first breath, it is having to deal with chaos – a cacophony invading the five senses. A child is constantly trying to make sense of everything, and desperately depends on its parents for help in his quest.
As parents we do our best to help, but as children age we sometimes mistakenly judge an apparent independence (and sometimes arrogance!) as an indication we are not welcome to help anymore. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Although it may appear that the older child and teenager has turned a deaf ear to our advice and guidance, she is still listening and observing, although somewhat surreptitiously.
Dr. Peter Szatmari wrote recently in the Globe & Mail that the transition years to adulthood (16 to 25) are particularly difficult, especially as it concerns school and post-secondary education. Dr. Szatmari is chief of the Child and Youth Mental Health Collaborative at SickKids, CAMH and the University of Toronto, and he writes that the transition years to adulthood “are the years when the mental-health challenges of childhood and adolescence may evolve into the mental disorders of adulthood. These are also the years of the highest prevalence of substance abuse and mood disorders and the highest attendance at mental-health professionals’ offices and emergency rooms for mental-health problems.”
High School is not like it used to be, or at least not the way I remember it. If your child is expecting to go to university, and given the competition to get into university, then it is prudent and recommended that he take the “U” (university preparative) courses in Grades 11 and 12. These courses are demanding, and for some daunting. A student who has done well in school through grade 10 may, in grade 11, suddenly find herself adrift, anxious or even frightened by the workload and the pace of U level courses.
Dr. Szatmari says that “the most important challenges of university or college include time management, independent study habits and navigating the dangers, and joys, of peer and romantic relationships…The key to mental health [is] the ability to keep learning and forgetting; learning stress-management skills; and to have the ability to forget the trials and tribulations of peer and romantic relationships. Developing these skills should be a focus of the last one or two years [of high school] before going off to university and college. Getting into a study routine, ensuring a good night’s sleep and learning how to distract oneself from stressful situations are key skills that parents should help their kids master.”
It may not be easy for an independent teen to seek his parent’s assistance, often believing he should be more capable than that. The parent of a teenager has to be very perceptive and ask the right questions. Often the parent is at a loss how to help. That is where a certified teacher-tutor from Inspiring Tutors can help most. Our tutors know what students face on a day-to-day basis, and they have the perspective and experience to more readily recognize what a student needs, together with the ability and knowledge to provide it.
Dr. Szatmari’s final advice is this: “Keeping the lines of communication open is more important that trying to control study time and ensuring your child gets good marks. At some point, you as a parent have to give up control and this can be as hard for you as the transition to university or college can be for your child. You are in for a lifetime of advice and support but the form that takes has to change with each developmental stage. And the transition into adulthood is perhaps the most difficult from both perspectives.”