It’s NOT the most wonderful time of the year!

 “It’s the most wonderful time of the year” croons the velvet throated singer, as a nearly delirious parent happily frolics around an office supply store; their kids look like doomsday has arrived.  This is one of the most popular and ever-present ads as retailers encourage us to stock up for back to school items.

In fact, as most parents will tell you, “the most wonderful time of the year” comes with a lot of stress.  Kids returning to school face new teachers, new classrooms, new books and new expectations.   I loved school as a kid, but and I vividly remember the utter dread that came with that first week. 

I’m also not sure that parents are doing the proverbial happy-dance either.  I’m sure they must be worrying about how their kids will do.  How will they fit in? Will their teachers give them what they need? And for the women in the YWCA shelters and residences, there are different worries.

“Will I be able to get any of the items on the “must have” list that the teacher sent home?”

“If my husband finds us, I’ll have to move again. How can my son get stability and do well in school if we are constantly moving? “

There are also residents who make their own transition back to school for the first time in years.  Special challenges exist for these women. Most have moved around a lot.  They may need identity documents and school records along with the much advertised clothing and school supplies.

Post-secondary expenses are also a huge stress.  Recent news reports say that a post-secondary education is required for two of three new jobs.  Post-secondary education is not a luxury, it is essential. Women are struggling to manage costs associated with tuition, books and transportation. And for women who have young children, there is the struggle for affordable quality child care.

How does the YWCA help?

We have counselling to help women begin to imagine success.   Repeated trauma can leave you believing that you cannot succeed.  Our staff help womenfocus on their strengths, strategize about how to remove barriers and connect them with the appropriate community services. 

For children in our residences and shelters we provide one to one tutoring and other programs to help meet their needs.  For younger children there are two enriched child care centres.  With the help of corporate sponsors we can sometimes even provide school supplies! 

Our experience is proof positive that with the right support, women can thrive.

While for many this is not the most wonderful time of the year, in retrospect many will find it did mark an important new beginning.