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Our Upper School assembly took an interesting twist this past Monday. It’s very common to invite Old Boys back to reflect on their time spent at the College and speak about how their experiences here set them up for their current success. So upon hearing that Jake Bradshaw ’16, who was very involved in our theatre program, was speaking at our fall Arts Assembly, I was anticipating hearing an update on his theatre pursuits at Queen’s, the university in which he is now enrolled.
To my surprise, and likely that of many others, Jake did not talk about his academic or co-curricular accomplishments, but rather, courageously spoke about his struggles with his mental health during his first two years of university, and bravely shared that he had made a decision to take this year off from school. Some might view Jake’s decision as a setback, but in listening to his story, it became very clear that his decision to take a break was clearly a step forward, in that he prioritized his wellbeing over everything else in his life. On one level, his story was very simple, but the courage he had and the insight he shared was remarkably profound. You can read an article that Jake wrote about this experience which was published in Queen’s University’s The Journal.
As the father of two teenagers, one take-away from Jake’s address for me was the way he praised his parents for being there through his struggles, listening to him, trying their best to understand his needs, and ultimately supporting his decision.
Upon reflecting on Jake’s talk, and specifically the open communication he had with his parents, I recalled a very informative workshop I attended a few years ago run by Jack.org, an organization that “encourages youth to engage, raise awareness and reduce the stigma around the vital topic of mental health.” (queensu.ca) Below are some “Dos” and “Don’ts” that I remembered from that particular presentation. You may find them helpful when speaking with your son about any matter of importance:
Finally, Jake’s assembly address reminded me of a very brief but powerful video that I shared a few years ago through a previous missive. This appropriately titled, two-and-a-half-minute animated short called The Power of Empathy effectively complements the bullets above and clearly illustrates the difference between two often confused sentiments: sympathy, which can “drive disconnection”; and empathy, which “fuels connection.”
I hope you find the “Dos and Don’ts” helpful and the video enlightening. As a fellow parent, I know I often feel I can use all the help I can get in bettering my communication with my kids. I’d encourage you to talk to your son about the important message he heard last Monday.
Thanks for reading,
Blue: Whole School
Yellow: Upper School
Red: Prep School
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