When I first bought a house, I remember I was nervous because of all the paperwork and attorneys, it was intimidating. Somebody said to me, “Don’t worry about it, it’s always tough when you buy your first house, after that, it’s easy. Everything will be fine.” I thought two things (1) first house? I’m going to buy another house?! and (2) HOW ANNOYING!
The same thing happened when I went sky diving… one time. I was quite anxious and the trainer said, “Don’t worry, it’ll be fine, everybody is nervous the first time.” I thought two things: (1) First time? I’m going to jump out of a plane again?! and (2) HOW ANNOYING! I’m sweating bullets over here… stop telling me not to worry!
I can point to other times in my life when somebody reassured me everything was going to be okay and I felt better but there are times when you’re anxious about something and this backfires; the attempt at reassurance makes you feel like the other person is minimizing what you’re going through. That doesn’t feel nice. You end up even more anxious. And on top of that, you’re annoyed at the “friend” who tried to help you.
Is this resonating with you?
The other night we held a transition meeting for parents of students going into the 7th and 8th grades. At this meeting we discussed with parents what they can look forward to the following year in their child’s academic program. Our athletic director spoke about sports, guidance counselors discussed support services and groups, the student team advisor discussed her role as an advocate for students, Mr. Wiener, our fantastic assistant principal, and I discussed scheduling and many other practical aspects of the program. We painted a rosy picture of the remaining portion of our students’ middle school experience. I didn’t count but we must’ve said “don’t worry, everything will be fine” at least 75 times. Of course, this was said with the best of intentions; but I hope we weren’t annoying. We do believe that everything will be fine, but we certainly don’t want to minimize that this is an important transition in your child’s life and you are feeling just a little anxious.
This is an important reflection. At times we are called upon to help others through an unfamiliar situation, a challenging situation that we have been through many times. With 18 years of experience as a middle school administrator I have experienced the vicissitudes of adolescence thousands of times over. Nevertheless, the parents of our students haven’t. I always hope that I strike the right chord in acknowledging parents’ feelings, while at the same time assuring them that everything will turn out okay. This is one of the privileges of leadership, as a middle school principal or in any field. My responsibility as an “expert” in the field of adolescent development is something I never take lightly. I hope that I always guide our parents, teachers and students with the right balance of understanding and reassurance… And I hope that I am rarely annoying. It’s not nice to be annoying.