Did your Plebe survive Plebe summer only to be exhausted and asking whether they are cut out for USNA? Are they sleep deprived, constantly on watch (it seems!), and completely overwhelmed? Are they wishing they could roll back the clock to Plebe Summer – well maybe not quite!
This is the time of year when Plebes begin to question whether they can last the four year journey. Academics are in full swing – along with Company, military, athletic, and other obligations, and add to that, professional training and ProKno quizzes every week (usually on Friday night or Saturday morning). It seems that there is an endless parade of things that pile up on their plate and they can’t seem to keep their head above water. This is part of the training as a Naval Officer. what kind of decisions are you going to make? Can you think clearly under stress and while exhausted? Can you memorize and recall information quickly, and can you apply it? (Darn those Chow Calls!).
Although it seems an impossible task, your Plebe will get to the point where they actually do learn to prioritize and get some semblance of control over the craziness.
The most valuable commodity is time – and they quickly learn what should be at the top of the list – and many times it may not be academics. As I discuss at length in my book, A USNA Mom’s Journal, there are resources for your Plebe that they can reach out to for help. First and foremost is their company mates, their Squad Leader, “their” Youngster mentor, and of course, the Chaplains are certainly a great and confidential resource.
The first thing to realize is that most Plebes are in the same boat. It is part of the adjustment to the Plebe AC Year, and in some respects, they may find the Plebe Summer, although a big adjustment and challenging, was easier in many ways. The Detailers guided the Plebes through every step – told them where to go, at what time, what to bring, and made sure that Plebes were on top of things. y son who was a 2nd Set Detailer when he was a Forstie told my husband and me that all Plebes have to do is survive. The Detailers do everything else for them. Needless to say, he and the other Detailers were exhausted too!
The AC Year is a whole new ball game – the responsibility lies squarely on the Plebe’s shoulders to plan, decide, and succeed – or fail. The lessons of Plebe Summer, Other before Self, and Succeed or fall together, will resonate. as I discuss at length in my book, A USNA Mom’s Journal, they will learn to prioritize time commitments that will be impossible to keep; they will have to choose the commitment at which they fail – it can be academic (yes, grades suffer!) and preferably not anything company or military related. It is part of the process of learning to work with others, asking for help, learning to self-advocate, and supporting your squad no matter what.
As far as sleep or lack thereof, it is a rare commodity for most Plebes and Mids, but it does get better as the year goes on, especially after Spring Break. It is part of training for the Fleet and deployments. I think my Oldest got 2 to 3 hours of sleep a day for the 9 months+ on one deployment. They do learn how to cope and manage and this is the initial training.
I would suggest that you visit as often as you can, that you send reminders of why they belong at USNA and why they made their choice. Send them notes and texts to remind them that they are strong, that failure is a great teacher, and it is OK to fail as long as you learn and course-correct.
It may be a good time for your Plebe to take an honest self-inventory and evaluate where they are spending their time. With their phones back are they spending a lot of time on social media – or shopping perhaps? Is there an ECA (Extra Curricular Activity) they can drop to gain more study time? Can they talk to their squad leader or their CoC (Chain of Command) and advocate for themselves? If they feel they have had the most watches in Plebe history, perhaps they can trade a watch weekend with some one else – knowing that they will have to cover that some one else’s watch eventually.
Vitamins B and C can help boost their immune and nervous systems. We sent our kids an essential oil diffuser with lavender and stress reducing oils, which they used- when they remembered! You can also send favorite healthy snacks and things like microwavable mac ‘n cheese, oatmeal, nuts, healthy low sugar/high protein energy bars, and other things they might like to keep up their energy. Make sure to read labels and avoid hemp and poppy seeds. This blog post explains why.
Football season is always very active with little down time, so I suggest visiting on away weekends when your Plebe can try to get some rest, get some good food, and enjoy family time.
There is also a counseling center where Plebes/Mids can reserve time in a massage chair (and yes, they do nap while there, but they will have to set an alarm!!). I think the Chaplains can steer them in the right direction, but most importantly, know that they are not alone. Everyone is going through this same situation at one point or another…
You can also read my post, “When the Going Gets Tough.”
I hope this helps!