A Uniting Church coeducational independent day and boarding school on Kaurna Country, Adelaide, South Australia

Early Learning to Year 12

From the Principal - Edition 9 - 2022

At a recent conference on vocational education, all attending were confronted with some concerning information about the youth of today. According to the guest speaker, 72% of surveyed adolescents over the age of 14 did not feel as though adults could relate to them, talk to them and empathise with them effectively.

Most of us remember our teen years and it is highly likely that we would have said similar things about our parents. Of course, there were some, hip, on-trend or just connected adults to whom we could talk, but they were not usually our parents.

Why does this happen? What is going on? Where do our affectionate, tactile, loving and communicative kids go? Do they come back?

While each of us will eventually find our own answers to these questions, there are aspects to this journey that we all experience. As youth enter adolescence, they undergo the biggest psychological and physiological changes of their lives. At the same time, they face increased pressure to work out their study lines at school and potentially what career to pursue. Of course, we add to this pressure as parents and sometimes find ourselves in the danger zone that leads to volcanic, emotional outbursts.

The high school years are complex times for youth and families. As parents, we sometimes exacerbate problems too easily. We can have huge amounts of pressure applied to let our children have and do what they want. When this happens, we run the risk of being ‘peerants’ ie being friends with our kids, rather than parents to hold them to account, provide guidance and establish boundaries.

We run the risk of living vicariously through our children and pushing them to achieve what we didn’t. We can also become overly protective, preventing them from taking accountability for their actions or facing real or perceived injustice. In doing so, we can accidentally remove the opportunity of learning how to cope with it. We can become worse than ‘helicopter parents’ by becoming ‘lawnmower parents’ and obliterating anything in our children’s paths that may cause distress or unhappiness. Yet our actions remove their chance to develop resilience and intelligent disobedience. They lose the chance to learn how to make appropriate attributions around the outcomes of their actions. Perhaps, inadvertently through interceding, we are setting them up for distress and unhappiness later in life.

Some parents move into the ‘sharenting’ zone and through social media create pictorial biographies of our children’s every success, failure, achievement or social event, often without thinking about whether we should need our children’s consent. In the process, this might inadvertently teach children that it is OK to share pictorial content of others on social media without consent.

Parenting is simply not easy, seemingly becoming more difficult and complex. However, what we can do is relatively simple. We can love unconditionally; have clear boundaries around behaviour and respect; criticise behaviour rather than the person; teach our children that being told ‘no’ is absolutely fine; make them wait, rather than give them instant gratification. We can teach them how to be kind, grateful, useful, purposeful and brave, and how to be considerate and accountable. When we do this together as a learning community, the load is shared. It is made easier when we are consistent.

I hope you all have a wonderful break as this is the last eNews before our mid-year holidays. When Term 3 commences, we hope you will join with us to ensure students adhere to our School policy about uniform, jewellery and hair. Stay safe and healthy and those of you away on any camp or trip, enjoy your adventure!

Simon Shepherd