Leaving the Nest: Preparing Children for Out-Station Study

Leaving the Nest: Preparing Children for Out-Station Studyby Indira Rajagopal

In the months of August and September, one hears of children and young adults leaving their home to study. This is usually the first time children leave home, face the real world and try living an independent life. Parents are worried. They hope the values and morals that they have imparted over the years help their children navigate their lives. One can actually picture a parent giving last-minute advice, “Be good, do this, don’t do that…”

The speech in Shakespeare’s Hamlet–when Polonius, a councillor in the king’s court sends his son, Laertes, for higher studies to France–is a perfect example of parents’ viewpoint and a lesson for those who are leaving their parents’ home. It contains timeless truths and is noteworthy even in our times. Here’s what he had to say:

…my blessing with thee!
And these few precepts in thy memory 

See thou character.

Great emphasis is placed on building a good character. Education is considered to be a holistic endeavour that helps one acquire knowledge in all fields and become a good person. He cautions his son against flippant speaking. One has to know everything, but does not have to blabber unnecessarily.

…Give thy thoughts no tongue, 
Nor any unproportioned thought his act. 

Be thou familiar, but by no means vulgar.

He discourages his son from entering into silly quarrels, encouraging him instead to pick his battles. Before plunging into an altercation, one should have sound reasoning and justification; but having those, one should fight fiercely!

Those friends thou hast, and their adoption tried, 
Grapple them to thy soul with hoops of steel;
But do not dull thy palm with entertainment
Of each new-hatch’d, unfledged comrade.
He says that during one’s younger years, friends become a major influence. Hence the father insists his son keep good company. He tells his son not to flirt with every person he comes across, but to test the sincerity and level-headedness of his friends. There is also a sense of permanence assigned to a good friendship.

Beware of entrance to a quarrel, but being in,
Bear’t that the opposed may beware of thee.
Listening is a virtue; one should always listen to what everyone else is saying. But one must exercise one’s judgement to examine its truth and accept it based on one’s own reasoning. This is the backbone of building a good character.

Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy,
But not express’d in fancy; rich, not gaudy;
For the apparel oft proclaims the man,
And they in France of the best rank and station
Are of a most select and generous chief in that.
Often we see youth take to fashion and fads in search of popularity and self-glorification. Not having the responsibility to earn, one can easily fall down a slippery slope. Polonius points out that stereotyping is common in the world—often a well-dressed man commands respect, regardless of his character. He suggests that one should dress decently; but not go overboard, beyond one’s financial capacity.

Give every man thy ear, but few thy voice;
Take each man’s censure, but reserve thy judgment.
Finally, he says one should be true to one’s self. The inner conscience always warns one against bad deeds. Only when one suppresses it, does one indulge in undesirable actions. This is cheating one’s self. One should always listen to the pure inner voice and never ignore it for external glory or charm!

This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
We can see that the modern world is moving away from all these principles. Loud talking wins favour; rash responses and rigid views plunge people into frequent quarrels; the economy relies on borrowing; fashion and vanity dominate the social scene; relationships are shallow, undergoing constant changes and losing stability; and in running after the changing world, people are losing themselves! It’s time to pause and think deeply about these things as you step into a new life of your own!

Indira Rajagopal is a Dignitarian, a member of Dignity Foundation, an NGO providing all kinds of social support systems for productive living among the 50+ in India. For details, contact 022-61381100 or log on to www.dignityfoundation.com or www.facebook.com/dignityfoundation

(Image courtesy Thinkstock)

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