14 August 2019

“A new world of choice, lifestyle and opportunity”

On the eve of A-Level results, School Counsellor Mrs Laura Herman reflects on the new freedom and opportunity awaiting our most recent former students

As I drove to School along Lower Road one Summer Term morning, I was alerted to a young man – around 18 years old – riding a motorised skateboard at speed without a helmet in the middle of the road.

He was clearly enjoying the ride, skilfully circling parked cars with ease and balancing with his arms slightly extended and fingers gently spread out to his side. I, like other motorists, showing concern for his safety, overtook him from a safe distance and at the lights, he overtook the stationary cars and swept down towards South Harrow in a state of carefree oblivion.

His sense of freedom, pleasure and clear lack of discernible concern for his safety was palpable but I, and as I imagine many responsible adults would be, was horrified by what I would describe as this young man’s reckless behaviour. I felt compelled to call out of the window or offer some safety advice but very quickly, he had sped out of sight.

It made me think about John Lyon Upper Sixth students, on the cusp of the huge transition into young adulthood. For many this will mean a move away from home to university and a new world of choice, lifestyle and opportunity, hugely different from life at home with their parents.

University can fulfil some of the increasing need for independence and the healthy desire for new experiences that frequently involve some level of perceived risk-taking behaviour. This innate drive for a degree of separation from parents is a healthy developmental task that can be a struggle for parents in letting go.

I am not advocating a purchase of a motorised skateboard, but I suspect they will be enjoying what comes with the freedom away from the watchful eye of their parents and I hope and trust that our Sixth Form students have accrued the confidence, self-regard and tools to embrace the exciting opportunity that lies ahead with a healthy balance of self-care.

We wish all our departing boys well in their lives and adventures. While they will no longer have the support of John Lyon in their daily lives, all universities are well equipped to offer pastoral care and wellbeing services to students, and I hope our newest Old Lyonians won’t hesitate in seeking out support if they feel they need it.

Mrs Laura Herman is a professionally trained psychotherapist, member of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) and the UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP). She can be can be contacted by pupils at [email protected].