New beginnings

And so we come to the beginning of another month … a New Year and already February has arrived!

What does February mean for you? For me, February means the birthday of my father (on Valentine’s Day in fact) and a gentle reminder of someone so dear; it means long, hot summers and time at the beach; and another birthday, that of a very special school friend with whom I spent many fun filled hours in our growing years. The gift of her fantastic enjoyment of life still fills me with joy in every email we exchange.

And February also represents the beginning of the school year. After so much holiday freedom seeing those ‘back to school’ banners in the stores can trigger very difficult emotions for some kids. Not perhaps so for the older ones, but very often for those facing Years 2, 3 and 4. Challenges abound because it’s in those years one can begin to feel the pressures surrounding acceptance or rejection – and consequently, the experience of loss, confusion and anxiety.

Children need security as do we all. Beginning with the security of parents, the craving to feel one belongs, to feel wanted and secure remains a powerful influence throughout all of life. When security is lost, tension rises and very often, inappropriate coping strategies come into play.

It’s easy to recognise tearfulness and social inhibition; but parents also need to watch for other signs. Some young children become aggressive in their fear of rejection. Others may demonstrate their pain in wakefulness, nightmares, nail biting, loss of appetite and even a reversion to bed wetting may manifest as the new school year, beginning in February, draws closer.

Our education system has instituted NAPLAN, a literacy and numeracy testing mechanism to evaluate intellectual ability. This, together with the judgment of teachers and the approval of principals seems to dictate how and where within their education individual children might best be placed for maximum learning. Personally I have grave reservations about testing or judging unless these also accommodate emotional individuality. Yes, perhaps formal testing and the assessment of teachers may gauge academic potential. But are there certain children who may not flourish if feeling unhappily placed within a group of peers with whom they have difficulty relating? Or how might a child feel if challenged by mandatory placement with older or younger children? Or how might a child feel if subject to a teacher whose skills lie outside the realm of intuitive or psychological empathy?

So there may be many unsettled kids as the new school year charts their course. It’s really important that parents and their children are rich in skills to assist personal strengths, self confidence, self trust and above all, serenity to allay anxiety. Here’s where I would promote our SMT school programs. Over many years we’ve seen amazing results in anxiety and tension reduction – so parents, maybe you might consider bringing your kids along or better still, lobbying your school to introduce our Schools Program to provide the healing and preventative qualities of some education in stillness!

And so I’m reminded that 2013 marks the 30th year of publication of my personal triumph over emotional distress (In Stillness Conquer Fear, 1983). The seeds of anxiety were sown in my early school years; some alone-ness, some bullying, some feelings of rejection and more all played a part in my later experience of life crippling anxiety.

I’m proud to begin to celebrate 30 years of knowing how to manage anxiety and its counterpart, stress. And I’m proud to begin to celebrate thirty years of helping thousands of others (of all age groups!) to have that choice, too. People still write to me to say how that book mirrors their own lives – and thankfully, changes their lives!

There’s something to consider for the month of February!