Conversation and time with your Middle School child:
Recently the school hosted Graham Hyman from Youth Specialties Australia to speak to Middle School parents on the topic of ‘Understanding and Communicating with your Teenager’. As the organiser, I have to say that even though this kind of presentation is something I have heard many times already – I appreciated and was encouraged by his words of advice and thought they were worth sharing for those who were unable to make the evening.
One of the key takeaways was that, while it can be a difficult and unrewarding – creating regular opportunities for conversation should be a priority. He used the idea of ‘nonsense’ and ‘gossip’ talk as an idea for tools to assist your conversations. While not necessarily always the case, you may find your teenage son or daughter doesn’t want to offer up any information except the most minimal of replies. Graham Hyman, encouraged our parents to be happy with ‘nonsense’ talk – his definition being those conversations that really don’t mean a lot such as ‘which level they’re up to in ‘Fortnight’, ‘why it definitely is their turn in the front seat’, ‘how many apps are ideal on your phone and the best way to arrange them’ etc. Similarly, ‘Gossip’ talk evolves when you ask questions like, ‘I haven’t seen [person’s name] for awhile…?’ ‘Do you think Aunty Jo liked that present we gave her?’etc. In response, they may offer information about their thoughts on topics and people that allow good conversations and better understandings around issues that concern them, it invites them to give their thoughts. (Of course, any nastiness or real ‘gossip’ offered would be an opportunity to explore empathy or kindness).
His parting words of wisdom were “Something is always better than nothing”.
1. Be Patient
Don’t expect too much of your kids, too early. Adolescence takes time, and some kids take more than others. As difficult and objectionable as they can be, they all grow up – eventually. The remarkable thing about today’s teenagers is that they are often much more sophisticated than we were at their age, and much less mature.
2. Keep your sense of humour
People who live with teenagers often need to see the funny side of things just to get through. Looked at in the right way, those irritating behaviours are often amusing and occasionally hilarious. When kids grow up in caring, positive environments very few of the frustrating attitudes and annoying actions are permanent. Learning to lighten up and see the bright side will defuse conflict that can sometimes cause more damage than the behaviour that provoked it.
3. Be forgiving
Teenagers will do the wrong thing. They will say the wrong thing. They will go to the wrong places. In all of these things there will be a need to give redirection and often apply consequences. But in none of these things should a teenage child be given the sense that he or she has committed a wrong which will never be forgiven and always be remembered. Forgiveness is an essential step in renewal and growth. It allows the child to learn from the incident and move on, leaving the inappropriate behaviour behind.
Un-forgiveness breeds resentment and says to the teen “I do not believe you will learn from this”. Forgiveness breeds respect and says to the teen “Regardless of the past we believe in your future”.
4. Communicate unconditional love
It may seem trite and simplistic, but it is not. The most important words a teenager can hear from a parent are ‘I love you’. Those words will take root in a teen’s soul and grow into that child’s source of self worth and capability when they are echoed in the actions that go with them and come with the clear knowledge that they will not be withdrawn.
5. Learn to trust
Just as you had to let go of your child’s hand so she could take her first steps on her own, and let go of the saddle so he could wobble his way to balance for the first time on his bike, so you have to let teens go their way and make their own mistakes. They may make big mistakes and they will quite possibly break promises but the vast majority of kids will learn trustworthiness much earlier when given the opportunity to prove themselves. (© Graham Hyman)
I would also add that: you are not alone; your child can often use the knowledge of your ‘mumness’ and ‘dadness’ to know they can sort of get away with some very poor behaviour because they know you will often love them despite these moments – so, have patience and work hard at overlooking these times; And, if you’re a praying parent, ask God for wisdom.
Jacqualina Vreeling, Head of Middle School