Supporting Our Children

Kyle Thompson | Principal

Parenting is one, if not the, hardest, most complex, yet most rewarding ‘jobs’ you can have. Every day requires energy, and more energy, diplomatic skill greater than many UN ambassadors, the skills and understanding of a referee who not only understands the rules, but also understands the game and the ability to figure it out as we go. There is no handbook, no licence requirements, and to top it off, an ever changing world that perhaps, as parents, we may struggle to keep up to date and at terms with. Even writing this introduction is challenging because how does one describe or wrap up parenting in words?

In being a parent, what is it that our kids want from us? And, not just in simple terms of food, shelter and safety. What is it we can be doing for them as they navigate their way through school, particularly the high school years when thrust upon them is the reality that all this ‘stuff’ they have been doing at school finally counts (yes, I know, this should not have come as a surprise to them but it always seems to).

Last week, I was able to read a report from The Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth (ARACY) on what today’s teenagers want their parents to be saying and doing, as they navigate the stressors of their senior years. The report, aptly titled “Please Say You’re Proud of Me” found that students in years 10-12 experienced tension between asserting their independence while still wanting and needing the support and guidance of parents in their education and future. The report shows that parental support is a key factor in them doing well and setting the foundation for their futures. This is not to say that the parents’ job is to solve all their problems or to run interference on some of the challenges that will present themselves during this stage of schooling.

So how much involvement do our boys and girls want? There are four consistent themes in the report:

  1. Parents focussing on the positive, expressing pride in the child’s achievements and accepting who they are as a person
  2. Reminding them that you love them unconditionally and are always there for them
  3. Offering practical guidance in tackling stresses and other problems at school and in life in general
  4. Encouragement and support in allowing them to follow their own aspirations and make their own decisions for their futures, rather than being pressured into pursuing their parents’ dreams.

Students in the report acknowledged the importance of academics but articulated that success was broader than just academic results. Success for them included establishing and maintaining friendships, developing life skills and doing well in co-curricular activities. Many students also noted the pressure to do well adversely affected their mental health and the maintenance of a healthy balance between study, friends and family life.

In engaging with our boys and girls, this can be as simple as talking to them in regards to what challenged them at school today, discussing news items, discussing their homework or perhaps most importantly, listening to their views.

In short, our boys and girls need and will continue to need the support of their families as they progress through their senior schooling. As care givers, finding the balance of support, developing independence, and articulating our unconditional care for them are the ingredients for a successful outcome for our students, in whatever guise that is to take.