From the Principal – May 2021
We have now passed the halfway mark of Term Two and are fast approaching the Semester One holiday. Every day I witness parent acts of unconditional love for their children, and the commitment they have in supporting them on so many levels. The sacrifices parents make to provide the very best opportunities for their children are an inspiration to us all. After having navigated three sons through the ‘other side’ of university and my daughter in her last year traversing through to the ‘other side’, I want to say what we all know, parenting is not easy and we don’t always get it right.
As parents, I believe there are certain things we can do to help our children through these years of prodigious emotional and physical development. We can send them to a school where we know they will be well cared for, and where they will be presented with a clearly defined moral and ethical framework within which they can still take calculated risks; a place where, whatever the world may throw at them, they will be confronted daily with optimism and energy that reinforces their potential and their value as people.
We can also find the courage in ourselves to stand firm against the tide of relaxing standards when we feel the need to do so. I know we risk alienating our children by not giving in to their demands for freedom, but I believe this alienation is temporary, whereas the consequences of not putting boundaries in place at such a critical time in their lives can have lasting consequences.
Too often, I hear loving parents with the very best of intentions, feeling as though they have failed through their mistakes. Parents often feel that they have to take drastic action and make significant interventions when their children feel anxious, unhappy or unloved. Current research seeks to reassure, that negative emotions are as important as positive emotions for a child to learn. Recognising when they are sad or happy, angry or tranquil, frustrated or successful, befriended or unfriended is an important skill for every child to learn. As parents, our role is not to save them or solve these problems for our children, but to guide them as they discover their own solutions. Understandably, we have to protect them from harm, but we also have to prepare them for their life and all the challenges this brings with it.
I can assure every parent, that at some stage their child will feel miserable. They will be upset about something, fail at something, express anger at rules or decisions, have a falling out with their friends, or a major conflict. There will be a teacher that they may not necessarily like, a mark on an exam or an assignment that disappoints them, or some days when they say, “I don’t like school!” This is very normal for a child, especially through those teenage years! This is when parents need to be the parent and not well-intentioned rescuers. The research is compelling when it says, “children need us to be their parent, not their friend”. This approach is referred to by some of the researchers as Authoritative Parenting, which means taking charge of your parenting with love.
I believe parents need to create consistent boundaries and serve fair consequences. That they need to answer questions about the reasons behind the rules or decisions, respect the fact that they may simply have a different opinion and gradually give freedoms and greater responsibilities as children mature. Consistent parenting creates close families and helps create a worthy relationship between a child and their school. Our consistent commitment to our core values will continue to be a significant contributor to the raising of the next generations of our children.
One of the more vexatious issues for parents is the minefield of the weekend party. By far the most important rule as far as teenage parties are concerned is the provision of adult supervision. As responsible parents, we must check that whatever function our children are being invited to will be overseen by adults. The vast majority of problems occur when this simple rule is overlooked. We have the right as parents to be assured that our children will be safe, and if they are embarrassed about us checking out the details of a particular function, then so be it. So please, make the call, even if you are told it is a pizza and sleepover night, and get the reassurance you need to make objective decisions about whether or not the function meets your criteria for safe partying.
If you are hosting a party please, under no circumstances, allow alcohol to be present and ruin the evening. Apart from the fact that it is against the law to serve alcohol to anyone under 18 years of age, it is simply irresponsible to encourage the notion in young adults that they can only have a good time if alcohol is involved. If it is a large gathering, then sadly it might be necessary to consider bringing in some security for the night. Social media has an uncanny way of extending the invitation list to people you might not know and indeed might not want at your child’s party.
Let us all remember that as the significant adults in your child’s life, we are all going through this together, and we’ll come out of it together if we build upon the partnership between home and St John’s. We do have a number of resources available on My St John’s for our families to access in support of this journey and partnership.
Mrs Maria McIvor