Bear the Burden Yourself

“The truest help we can render an afflicted man is not to take his burden from him, but to call out his best energy, that he may be able to bear the burden himself,” Phillip Brooks said that. That statement helps me talk about a few things facing children in school. Particularly those who have children close to graduation, and helps present a new idea for legislators, administrators and teachers to consider.

Many of you may be in the throes of trying to help your child get ready for graduation. In some circles it’s called senioritis. You know what I mean! The young buck or starlet knows everything. They are only months from moving into a world we traveled years ago and are still trying to navigate. The difference is, they know everything. Feeling my drift? Well in the words of an old sergeant on ‘Hill Streets Blues,’ “it’s a jungle out there.” The proverbial question becomes…are they ready? Have we done all we can to get them there? What will we do if they fail? The answer to these is yes. Yes. Let them.

Whether they are ready, the fact remains: life doesn’t stop. From the moment they are born, they are destined to only be protected to the point we can manage. We can’t do everything, and if we could, what to say that what we’d do is the right thing. Writers talk about the parents who hover over their children like helicopters. It’s not good for the parents. It’s not good for the children. Most of all it’s not good for the colleges that protest over overprotecting mothers and fathers who refuse to let go. We have, in many cases, through the instant messaging, the instant gratification, and overly protectiveness created children who will not grow until we let them. As parents, many of us are so afraid we’ve failed them. I can’t answer why we feel that way. But I can offer an idea that has been implemented in Florida and has national implications. It’s called giving them control earlier in their academic careers.

“The law says the students need to be enrolled in a major, but that doesn’t mean they have to graduate with a major,” said Cheri Pierson Yecke, State Chancellor in Florida for kindergarten through 12th grade. This revolutionary program allows freshmen in high school to declare major. It encourages them to change their minds as they progress through high school, most importantly, it gives them the responsibility to choose and think about what they might be doing the rest of their lives. I first saw this on NBC news, and the comments I heard from the students was they loved it. It gave them an idea of seeing if what they thought might interest them, really did. And the beauty of this program is they [the students] had the flexibility to change their major if they didn’t like what they’d chosen. So by the time they were seniors, there was a better chance that the money they would spend ‘finding’ themselves in college may not be wasted. How does that translate? Provides optimal graduation rates and more productive workers doing something they have a talent and a love to do. If your senior has no idea what she or he wants to do with their lives, it might be a little late, but better late than never to discuss these alternatives.

What are some of these alternatives? Well if they have not started the application process: get started. With that is the process of getting tested, and by this I mean those tests that most colleges require: SAT [Scholastic Aptitude Test], or ACT [American College Test]. If you have not tested at least once by now, you are behind. If you choose to take only one test, I recommend the SAT. If your son or daughter has not discussed at least two options for colleges, start calling the school counselors and see what’s going on. If you have not visited with at least one of your child’s teacher, or emailed them, then before next week, do it. It’s not just lines of the Negro College Fund, “a mind is a terrible thing to waste.” There is no regard to whose mind it is.

Talking with one of the parents in the office where I work who has been through the rigors of the senior year I was comforted knowing I’m not alone in the attempt many young men and women go through as they try to distance themselves from mom and dad as freedom beckons them on the horizon. One of the difficulties to cope with is the pressures facing these young men and women. They are competing for college and university grants, loans and scholarships. They are competing with their peers who may not be going to college, have no aspiration to go and derive their vision of how they will be spending their post high school years by encouraging their friends not to go too far away…if at all. As parents we have to attack these issues head on and keep encouraging them that none of their friends are going to pay their rent, buy them cars, or raise their children. It’s a fact.

Parents should collaborate and every opportunity find parents with children of similar interest to get together, however that might happen. Parents should collaborate with the teachers as a follow up plan to keep their children focused. Having a degree plan as a freshman may not be on the horizon for your daughter or son’s school, but having college on the horizon is definitely something moms and dads can communicate to teachers, sons and daughters, and the parents of your son or daughter’s friends.

The bottom line is we cannot live our children lives. We can promote and encourage them, but we cannot live for them. Their burden is to tackle and defeat, and all we can do is find a way to energize them and say no when the time is right. Senioritis is a time for drawing the lines in the sand and positioning ourselves to dig in and hold out. If you need a mentoring organization find one in your city, or go to a Boys and Girls Club as they help young boys and girls realize their potential by increasing the awareness of what they can do. It’s what we adults do as we groom young men and women into adulthood, particularly men into fathers.

“Children need strength to lean on, a shoulder to cry on, and an example to learn from.”

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