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The challenge of parenting adolescents

Learning other ways to help young people find themselves

“Every moment of dark and light is a miracle.” Walt Whitman.

As parents/carers, we may experience many moments of “light and dark” with our adolescent children. The challenge is to see each of these moments, whether dark or light, as miracles, and to embrace the darker moments as opportunities – opportunities for personal growth and opportunities to strengthen our relationship with the very special young people in our lives!

As a teacher and educational leader for many years, I have thrived on working with young people. I love their honesty, rawness, creativity and infinite possibilities. However, school may not always cater to these qualities. For those who fit into the model, school can be great. For those who don’t, there are a number of possible outcomes…poor behaviour, anxiety, disengagement, or simply conforming.

In my work with young people, I have recognised and embraced their boundless energy and creativity through various alternative programs – programs designed to tap into their creativity and imagination and to build a powerful sense of Self.

My teaching philosophy has always been: “Education is not the filling of a bucket, but the lighting of a fire.” (William Butler Yeats). In keeping with this philosophy, I have tried to connect with young people so that it is easier to “light their fire”, and I am confident that I have been able to successfully ignite this fire in many young people whom I have taught.

To see so many young people with blank, lifeless looks on their faces as they go through the motions at school, is confusing and confronting as a parent. Our young people deserve better than that…and we, the older generation, owe them more than that.

My years of experience have taught me how to help young people thrive and be all that they can be. I have found that they just want us to be human, real and vulnerable. They can see through our disguises and confusion, and know when we are not authentic. They want to make their own mistakes and decisions about things that matter on the journey to becoming adults. When we try to control, force or demand, we often get the opposite response. Gentle guidance works best as it empowers a young person and gives them autonomy. If we trust them to make the right decision, then invariably this is what happens. If it doesn’t, it becomes an experience of growth and learning and an experience we can use to engage in dialogue with our children.

My philosophy is simple …we need to allow our young people to find themselves. The Self is difficult to find in a chaotic, noisy, busy world. We need to find a way to “retrieve the utter tranquility of mind” (Lao Tzu). If we can help our young people experience this tranquility, the self is likely to emerge. A strong sense of self can provide them with stability, confidence and a centredness which will enable them to be less influenced by the myriad of external pressures that have come to complicate their lives.

The influences, the pressures and the conflicting messages will keep coming, but if we can give them the tools to help send their roots deep down into the soil, then it won’t matter how much their branches are exposed to the winds, they will remain firm!

I warmly extend an invitation to you to come along and engage in dialogue about your children – with me, and with other parents/carers who will be experiencing the same challenges.

Where: The Newcastle Health Collective.
When: Thursday May 20th, 7:15 to 9pm
Who: Parents /carers. (This initial session will be just for the adults. Following this, I would like to offer a session were parents/carers and the young people come together to explore issues and find possible solutions).
What: “The challenge of being a parent/carer of teenage children”.
Cost: $15 per person/ $20 per couple.

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