By Laura Bickle
Photo: Talia Dimerman
Sara Dimerman has been a psychologist in private practice for 30 years and also founded the Parent Education Resource Centre in Thornhill, Ont., in 1990. She has written several bestselling books, including Am I a Normal Parent? and How to Influence Your Kids for Good, and hosts a popular podcast, too.
In her most recent book, she turns the focus to her own family and her daughter Chloe. Don't Leave, Please Go chronicles Chloe's final six weeks at home prior to leaving for university, her first year there and her summer at home afterwards, offering guidance through the lens of their personal experience. We asked Dimerman to share how teachers can help their students navigate this challenging but exciting time.
I was surprised at how we got along better when she was living away and how it was more tricky when she returned home for visits.
Chloe encountered a roller-coaster of emotions. However, as she writes in the book, she is glad she rode out the storm. With a lot of support both from home and at university, she is thriving in her third year.
Parents and teachers working together is ideal. Parents can ensure that their teens have the life skills necessary for living away while teachers can help to make sure that they have the academic and practical skills. Both parents and teachers can model effective time management skills, organizational skills and the importance of following through.
There can be many highs and lows. Teens are somewhat checked out and looking forward to closing one door and opening another. But they're also feeling nostalgic about saying goodbye to a familiar environment.
This is also a time of angst. Most students don't really know what they want to do with the rest of their lives and think that everyone else has a better sense of direction.
Let them know their feelings are normal. Help ease anxiety by having brainstorming and informational classes about the application process. The more they're armed with practical information, the less anxious they will be.
Teachers may be able to draw on their personal experiences. My teenage clients find it helpful to know that I studied radio and television before I became a psychologist. I assure them that no matter what they start out doing and where they end up, nothing is ever a waste of time and they will learn from every life experience along the way.