• Dr Helen Care

All change in September

A friend just sent me a photo of their 16 year old trying on his suit for 6th form college. There he is: a very smiley, smartly dressed young man looking very much ready for his next steps. I don’t see him very regularly, so for me, he suddenly looks incredibly grown up. For his parents, there will be that mix of pride at the young man he has become and wistfulness about the little boy he used to be.

September is always a month of mixed emotions around transitions. Whatever age and stage your young person is, September in the UK is the time of the biggest transitions in their lives. Starting school, changing school, beginning exam courses, starting University, or the moment when they no longer attend school and your life ceases to revolve around term dates.

As we contemplate September approaching and all the changes and transitions it brings, I am sending best wishes to all the parents, carers, grandparents and all those adults who care for young people. It is a time to recognize and accept the mixed feelings, the excitement and the anxiety that they will be feeling, and that you will be feeling on their behalf.

I am also encouraging you to notice that this is their story. You are a massively important part of it, but you have to let them tell the story of their life that they want to. Our own experiences, fears or feelings of loss shouldn't get in their way. They need us to be supportive, encouraging and positive for them. It doesn’t mean that it is our job to tell them everything will be OK or to brush difficulties under the carpet. But it does mean that we have to stay with them alongside their worries and fears, without adding any of our own.

If I had a horrible time at secondary school, it doesn’t mean my child has to. If we are sad about our child going off to school for the first time, they are still right to be excited. Mixed emotions are really hard for us to tolerate, whatever age we are.

It usually seems far easier if we can feel one, simple emotion at a time. But life is rarely like that and transitions almost never are. They always bring a complex wave of emotions: good, bad, ugly and unknown; and it is our job to ride that wave with our young people and show them that it doesn’t have to break them. They can experience it and thrive. And we can let them.

With all my best wishes


Dr Helen Care, Clinical Psychologist

A Confident Start: psychology that works for your family

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