Square box, many shaped personalities

Josh Lockhart

I think if we could let our children and youth frolic in the fields throughout their upbringing, we would see child and youth mental health issues decrease. I have been noticing an interesting trend amongst the children and youth I am working with. Typically a child or youth is referred to the centre I am at when there is something going array at school, but during the breaks there are few referrals.

The school system tends to be rigid where you sit at your desk for said amount of time to learn math, get recess here, sit back in the desk to read and write. And as parents and society we panic when something isn't going right at school. However, we sometimes fail to take into account the individualism of each student, and try to stuff everyone into this box that is our education system.

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Do you remember that red and blue ball where you had to line up the yellow shapes to fit through the matching slots? What it seems like to me, is that school is like that kind of ball with only square slots and we are trying to shove the circle, rectangle, star and triangle shaped personalities into the square slots.

If they conform it seems like we are cutting off the edges of those personalities so they can fit into the square. Creativity, cut. Initiative, cut. Outgoing leadership, gone. Our children are unique individuals, and some of them are born with a special skill set, and sometimes that skill set has to be unfortunately suppressed while in school.

If the children do not conform to squishing through the square slot or having parts of them cut, we send them for counselling to get them to want to fit through the square slot.

Now don't get me wrong, many schools do an excellent job of meeting a particular child's needs. But what is always so fascinating is that during the holiday breaks, mental health issues seem to go in remission. There are many reasons for this, more time around peers, closer to family members, decrease in bullying, less stress, more time doing activities they like, etc. And typically, once the bell starts ringing again for classes to start, children are lining up to see a mental health counsellor again.

Also, please know I am not a teacher hater. They are doing the best they can with limited resources and past traditions that say this is the way it is. They are balancing all of that and putting their heart and soul into helping every child.

As parents, we need to help prepare our children for the school system. We need to be actively involved in their education to help them transition from year to year and from school life to home life. We need to be alert and aware. This may mean giving them a break to allow them to be themselves.

I realize children and youth can't go without education, it is an integral component of our society and their future. If we can begin to realize the individual personality shapes and honour those differences, we may be able to decrease mental health issues amongst children.

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