For parents, going through the marathon journey of having a tweenager/teenager (ages 11 to 18) can be a daunting experience. For most Secondary teachers it is the knowledge that you can help in the development of great, caring people, creative future thinkers and future leaders who are resilient, positive and growth focussed that gets us out of bed every morning! But as teachers we don’t lay the foundational family rules that set the path to a future unknown.
I love being a Secondary teacher but have just entered the world of having my own tweenager, and the dawning realisation that Dad may not be one of the main influences on her thoughts and actions has hit me hard! But after some self-pity I have realised that this time is make or break…I can either create an environment where my daughter has to overly rely upon her parents, or resent us: or I can slowly untie those ‘apron strings’ (or is it the tool belt) and strive with everything in my power to allow my her to grow into the very best adult she can be. Every step of this journey so far has been hard…for me (not for my daughter)…the first time she was allowed to ride alone to her friend’s house, the first time she paddled out and surfed by herself, the first time we actively let her fail without any prompting re what she should be doing, the first time she questioned our values, the first of many things to come!
All these steps are important to creating an environment that allows the growth of a positive, resilient and fiercely independent child. Truth be known I am now actively looking for age-appropriate opportunities for her to show her independence. While I sometimes have that feeling of fear/concern in the pit of my stomach, I have to remind myself to weigh up the risks and the potential positives and make a decision based on what is best for my daughter and NOT for me.
Some of the slow changes that are taking and will soon be taking place are:
· More freedom to go places and stay out later
· More freedom to do what she pleases without us being there all the time
· More freedom in choosing things she likes instead of what we like
· Freedom to question things we have taught her and make up her own mind
· Freedom to pursue her own interests and not ours
· More control over her likes and dislikes
· More control over her spiritual life
Of course this does not mean that I withdraw from all parenting responsibilities and become a free-range parent (that’s just not me). I still need to be able to communicate with my daughter and guide or support all the way. I know that the relationship needs to be maintained so as she can feel comfortable expressing her different opinion, asking for help or discussing failures without judgment or worse still an ‘I told you so!’.
I look forward to the next seven years and walking alongside her as my daughter grows into a confident, compassionate and determined person.
If you are reading this then you are probably somewhere on the timeline of this journey... and for every person this is different so I can’t inform you of how to react in every situation but as a secondary teacher with decades of experience I can say that this will be the most important parenting time of your and your child’s life.
Plan to be the best parent you can be for them. However, do not feel as if you are doing it alone, our College is here to help you on this (sometimes rocky) journey.
The following is a link to a brief but interesting read on these formative years: