Graduation 2021: Reflections on Connection

My final two children - yes, twins - officially crossed the stage on June 23, 2021 from our neighbourhood high school. My first born graduated from that same high school in 2014, followed by the next in 2017--I eagerly anticipated the last two being 'done' with high school. Now what? Time for reflection...

I'm not one for thinking about what I would do differently if I had another chance; rather, I choose to focus on what worked and what didn't. My kids are all unique to each other, yes there are some common traits and behaviours that are similar, but generally speaking they are all very different. One thing I have watched in "real-time" over the past number of years is connectedness correlating to satisfaction and perceived success. We've heard it many times "the more you put in, the more you get out". But what happens when your kids don't naturally seek out connections? Or when a pandemic strikes and you lose your "normal" way of connecting?

This past year was challenging for both the introvert and extrovert in our twindom. The introvert loved online learning and not having to be confronted with decisions about

attending parties and events; whereas, the extrovert felt trapped and challenged by the restrictions. As society starts to re-open, the extrovert is hungry to be out with people all the time, like a kid in the candy store; the introvert is worried about being with people, and the fears are leading to isolation and loneliness. As a counsellor I work with kids and adults who struggle with stress and anxiety, but as a parent it's hard to watch. This is where connection comes back in...encouraging our children to seek connection in a way that fits with their unique personality. Do they prefer one-on-one connection? Then encourage them to invite a friend over. Do they prefer bigger groups? Maybe joining a club or team is a better fit.

High school is tough socially and emotionally; having to navigate the nuances while new hormones are coursing through their veins doesn't make it any easier. When you know you have one person or a group of people who "have your back", the entire experience is more satisfying and successful. At Together Counselling + Educational Guidance we have built a monthly workshop series that is delivered to groups, which builds on the premise of forging connection. LEARNING TO LAUNCH is designed as a safe, inclusive, and structured space where grades 11-12 students can feel supported in their journey of contemplating their future and be with other students who are in the same situation. Topics covered: goal setting, core values, personality traits, communication skills, decision-making, networking, budgeting, resilience and the growth mindset. The workshops are interactive as students are led my myself, Registered Clinical Counsellor, and my colleague Michelle Robertson, Educational Guidance Counsellor, through each topic.

Keep in mind the importance of connections and finding the right fit for those connections to grow.