Think about a time in your life when you did something great. A huge achievement. A life changing moment. Something that helped develop you into the person you are today. Something that helped shape your character. Something you overcame.
Have you thought of it?
Now let me ask you some questions:
- Was it difficult?
- Was it a challenge?
- Did you struggle with it?
- Did you get hurt or upset along the way?
I’m sure many of you answered ‘yes’ to one or all of these questions about the significant achievement you were thinking of.
I did too. In fact, as I look back over my life I can see that some of the most challenging things I have gone through as a person have helped shape my character, my values, the way I look at the world and how I respond to the people around me.
As adults, we understand that. Looking back, we see that challenges help us to grow. They strengthen our resolve and develop that much sought after quality of resilience.
Then why, so often do we try to protect our children from ever having to experience difficulties?
When my son started climbing those precarious spider web rope pyramids in playgrounds I was never more than a foot away from him. And for good reason. He was nervous, wobbly and often misplaced his feet. I was there to catch him when he fell, and he often did. With encouragement and knowing I was there to catch him he gradually developed more confidence and was able to climb higher.
Then as he grew in confidence and climbed out of my reach, I found myself saying to him, “That’s high enough.” He could see the kids who had climbed to the top and wanted to join them, but here I was holding him back. My intentions were good. I didn’t want him to fall and get hurt, but what he was hearing is that he couldn’t do it. It was too difficult for him. He wouldn’t be able to achieve it, and he got nervous as his confidence was deflated.
It is difficult as a parent to know when to step back and let your child take a risk or be exposed to a situation where there is a chance they will be hurt. The good news is that I have never seen a 25-year old still trying to climb the spider web with his mum at the bottom calling out encouraging words. So at some point we all must figure it out.
Our sub school structure at Cedars has been carefully designed to gently expose our students to more challenges, enabling them to grow over time.
Junior School is a beautiful, protective and caring environment. Our youngest students need to be surrounded with love, safety, encouragement and care. They are exposed to challenges but the teacher is always close by to catch them or help them navigate through those.
Middle School is designed to provide the safety and protection of a home room teacher but also to expose students to different subjects, teachers, classrooms and peers. It is a wonderful four year transition to high school and it helps our students begin to move out of their comfort zone. It can also be a difficult time for parents as we sometimes feel our child might get hurt as a result of the new challenges. Maybe we are still calling out to our children, “That’s high enough”.
Senior College is all about developing independence in our students. We are preparing our teenagers for life after school and parents know that during this age their children want to make their own decisions and follow their own passions. They are becoming more and more independent and we are all working to make sure they have the wisdom, strength, resilience, skill and ability to not just survive but thrive as an adult. We only help them achieve independence if we have slowly stopped holding their hand over the years, let them experience challenges, successes, failures and hurts. Sometimes for a parent or teacher it is difficult to watch. Like the first time your child climbs to the top of the spider web. But how proud of them we are when they accomplish that challenge, and how priceless is that smile on their face when they realise “I did it on my own!”
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9