Back-to-school time stirs up so many thoughts and emotions in my family. I’m sure everyone has memories of their own back-to-school experiences as a child, some positive; some maybe not so great.
I remember laying awake the night before the first day of school wondering who my teacher would be (we didn’t find out until we walked into school that first morning!) and worrying about whether or not any of my friends would be in my class.
It always seemed to turn out alright though, even if I didn’t get the “nice” teacher, and by the end of the first day of school I’d reconnected with old friends and managed to make some new ones.
Fast forward to my daughter’s first week of first grade. School started on a Wednesday and she willingly went to school for the first three days. When Sunday evening rolled around however, she calmly announced to my husband and I that she wasn’t going back to school. Not the next day…not ever.
Thus began her 12-year battle with general anxiety disorder which mostly revealed itself in school settings. Some years were better than others. Once she got familiar with a teacher and the change in routine of a new classroom she seemed to settle in. As she got older, however, and had to face the chaos of middle school and high school, the anxiety became unmanageable and crippling at times. It often led to physical illness, extended absences and even hospitalization.
Through the efforts of many caring adults, counseling, medication and modifications to her school schedule plus a few years of attending school from home online, I’m proud to say my daughter graduated from high school a semester early and is beginning her second year of college next week.
When I look back over the journey our family has gone through (anxiety affects the whole family, not just the person with the diagnosis) God’s hand was clearly guiding us through the chaos. I’ve never prayed harder and with more conviction than I did for my daughter’s health and well being. I often relied on Mary for guidance on how to cope when you have to stand by and helplessly watch your child suffer. Mary has been and will always be my model for strength and compassion.
I also tried to teach my daughter to rely on prayer as a source of comfort when her anxiety seemed to be getting the best of her. Repetitious prayers such as the rosary can be calming for a person whose mind is spinning out of control. It gives them something to focus on instead of the negative thoughts swirling around in their head.
I’ve been in education my whole life. First as a student, then as a sixth grade teacher for eleven years and currently as a high school youth minister. My life has always revolved around the “school calendar” and this year is no different. I’m busy getting my kids registered for school, shopping for fresh new supplies, as well as making plans for fall youth ministry programming. But for the kids, parents, and yes, even the teachers that lay awake the night before the first day of school wondering if they’ll survive another year, I offer this prayer:
We give you praise, O God,
for everything that is new and beautiful,
for everything which holds promise and brings us joy.
Bless us as we start this new year
with our friends and teachers
Help us to make the most of every chance we have to start afresh.
May we show love to one another and to all.
May the new beginning of this school year
remind us that you give us chances to start over again and again.
Help us to forgive others
as we receive your forgiveness.
Help us to learn and to work together.
Help us to listen when we should
and to know the best words when we speak
and when it is better not to speak.
We thank you for our friends
Help us to be good friends this year.
Help us to be patient
with ourselves and with others.
Bless our school and keep us safe.
Be with us as we travel each day.
Help us to be aware of your love
shown to us in the people around us.
May the Blessed Mother Mary protect us
And help us to live as well as we can
Giving thanks and glory to God as she did.
(Deanne Lane, Director of Youth Ministry, Sacred Heart Parish)