I spoke at a parent seminar last week on preparing young men for the journey of puberty.
I made all the links and recordings free for download HERE
At the end of the evening I had the chance to speak with some parents and it is here that you often get a deeper insight into the issues that beset young people and the parents who love them.
The parents I spoke with had a son who is extremely gifted as an athlete. He could not be more than 12 but he suffers with anxiety that at times can be paralysing.
Step back for a moment and really think about that. He is barely 12 years of age and is already dealing with chronic anxiety.
I am not a mental health professional and this is not a blog post about anxiety as such.
What I want to do is make the suggestion that in a great Catholic school, so much can be done to really help young people develop through many of the challenges that they face.
Let me give you an example. When I attended a Catholic high school the only focus in my life was elite sport. I built my entire life around playing at the highest level.
The problem, however, was that my natural disposition was highly strung and I had no idea how to deal with nerves before competition.
Years later, having read endless books on sports psychology and studying great athletes I now realise that all I needed to do was dial down my preparation.
Some people benefit from trying to move themselves into an aroused psycho-physiological state before competition but many don’t.
Back in high school, I was essentially peaking two days before any event and then arriving at the competition day completely fried.
Years later, when I was coaching in a Catholic high school I can remember coaching a student who was quite similar. Any yelling in the dressing room would make him very edgy and nervous.
In the end I think I got him listening to jazz in the moments before kickoff!
So what I learned all those years later was so simple. Why did no one tell me about it when I was in school?
Here’s my point. For years I have been saying that you don’t need a huge number of ideas to change your life. You just need one good idea that you’re prepared to actually use.
Can I suggest that a great Catholic school will be a place where committed staff are always on the lookout for the word or insight or suggestion that needs to be spoken into the life of a young person.
I think of this young boy whose parents I was talking with. What he needs is a couple of coaches or teachers around him who can simply, gently and repeatedly do two things:
1. Help him understand that his athletic gift is part of him but not all of him. When young people identify with only one skill then their entire psyche gets easily threatened by failure.
2. Teach him the simple skills of relaxation via music or breathing so that he can self-soothe and dial down the pressure.
Yes, this is a partnership with parents but teachers spend so much time with young people that they can do much to help when they face genuine issues.
So, here is the challenge. As a Catholic educator you have the opportunity to be attuned to the challenges that young people face.
Any student, on any given day could be carrying any number of burdens and a word or a suggestion or some encouragement from you could make a huge difference.
In the comment box below share an experience where you have spoken into the life of a young person.
Also, make sure you check out our new online teacher formation program HERE