My daughter is finishing grade 6 and everyone in her class had to apply to an intermediate school. The selection process is quite grueling but I was very confident that she would be accepted in one or both of the schools she applied to. As the announcement date approached, the stress experienced by these children became more and more evident.
That morning, I received an email from the first school indicating that she was not selected and placed on a Wait List due to space constraints. I was stunned. It was the easier of the two schools and she did not make it to that. Never did I consider such a possibility. I was with her throughout the process and thought she did exemplary. A million questions started to fill my mind, starting with Why? Why? Why? Five minutes later, she ran into my room and in a very excited voice asked me if I heard from the schools yet. I was not ready to deliver the bad news, so despite my somber state I put on a happy face and said not yet. Later that afternoon I got the bad news from the second school.
On my way to pick her up from school I was tormented the whole way asking myself, Is she not good enough? What did I miss? Was it my fault that I did not get her tutors or assist her more with the application process? When she saw me she came running with great excitement and her first words were "Daddy, did you hear from the schools?" I was still not at all ready and said no, and instead I asked her what her friends heard. She told me that all her best friends got into the schools of their choice. That night I could not sleep and kept thinking She will be left behind. How will she take the news? Is this going to destroy her self-esteem? How can I protect her from this cruel turn of events?
The next day I told her about the first school and she was shaken. Then she asked me suspiciously about the second school and I had to tell her that too. As soon as I did she started to cry. It felt like a knife was cutting through my heart. I composed myself as much as I could and told her that bad things sometimes happen but always for a good reason. She countered by saying "that is not true!" I said, "Yes even if we cannot see at the time."
The next day I started to reflect on my belief that things always work out for the best. I reminded myself that this was not about me – It’s about my young daughter who has to learn a hard lesson so early in life. How can I help her deal with this without emotional scarring? I am aware that my perception can cause me to view situations like this with fear and shame and I learned to correct that perception, but in this case it was my daughter's emotions that I was worried about.
That was the moment I got my clarity. I suddenly realized that it is I who needs to deal with this, not her. I asked myself if I truly and completely believed that this is for the best? My answer was a resounding yes! Well then, what was the problem? There was none! What became clear is that it is I who felt the anguish and fear and shame. It is I who needs to process these negative feelings not her. She does not even have these feelings and I was about to inadvertently instill my own prejudices and negative perception onto her and then try to fix her, like breaking a glass and then trying to put it back together. I realized that if I was at peace with the outcome she would be too, and I could then focus on guiding her positively through it. What an awakening!
The next few days we found another great school and even a shot at her favorite one in another month although she was already happy with one we selected. My daughter continued to be as happy and cheerful as usual. The point is that while this story has a happy ending, the real gift is that I did not pass my self-centered fears to her and instead helped her see the good within adversity that would guide her for better serenity in life.
Here are four ways to apply this lesson when your child or any loved one faces a difficult situation:
1. Stay in the moment and be focused because they need you right now.
2. Make sure that you are totally without any negative feelings with their situation. True positive serenity is the best support that you can give to them.
3. Guide them to see the positive that could come out of it.
4. Help them avoid making decisions based on negative emotions that they may still have.
Charles G. Hanna is the author of Higher: Awaken to a More Fulfilling Life and a devoted father of three children. For more information, please visit www.charleshannahigher.com.