Letter from the Director General regarding the amalgamation between South Fremantle and Hamilton Hill Senior High School.
The Australian Medical Association defines adolescents as those between the ages of 10 – 24 years with many Australian children now reaching puberty earlier and leaving the family home later.
Girls, on average, will enter puberty earlier than their mothers did and well before their male classmates. Boys will stay in adolescence, on average, longer than their female classmates and well into their twenties.
Both boys and girls’ brains go through a period of re-wiring or neural pruning, where important areas of the brain are reorganised and some skills are put on the backburner. Many adolescents can watch TV, listen to music, game AND be on the internet simultaneously but completely fail to remember to take out the council bins and get their all-important excursion note signed.
Equally, they may be expert at solving their friends’ social problems but have little concept that what they just posted to FB, tweeted or texted is offensive.
The primitive and instinctive part of the brain is working hard during adolescence but the part that deals with critical thinking, like assessing risks, thinking about consequences and doing complex tasks can be slower to develop.
So what can we do, as parents of adolescents, to help our kids flourish and keep our sanity?
Michael Carr-Gregg, one of Australia’s leading psychologists, has this advice:
Have an adult mentor or role model
Young people who can rely on an adult in their lives and from whom they can draw strength are better off. This can be an aunt, coach, friend of the family or parent. Being connected encourages teens to rethink their actions.
Be good at something
It can be anything! A part time job, music, baseball, art or maths – just something so teens can be recognised and valued. It also helps to mix with people with similar interests and values, and have a routine to provide structure and responsibility.
Developing the skills to accurately read social situations, and to recognise what other people are thinking and feeling is critical. Our teens learn by example but these skills can also be taught in a more formal setting.
Having a sense of meaning
Knowing that we are part of something beyond just ourselves is an important protective factor. This can be the orchestra, the baseball team, church or an environmental group.
Positive self-talk and a willingness to persevere
Resilience in the face of life’s small and bigger knocks helps us to be stronger and retain a sense of confidence. Whether we tell ourselves we will fail or succeed, we will.
Q. How can I help my child succeed in high school?
A. More than anything else you can help your child by maintaining an open line of communication with him or her. Young adults, like the rest of us, don’t want to be lectured at. You don’t have to agree with their point of view, but do listen. Our children need to feel safe, loved, valued and listened to succeed.
Q. My child seems to change their friends and friendship groups every week – is this normal?
A. Young adults often have very short attention spans (some research says less than 14 seconds), and this often applies to social situations as well. The psychologist Joanne Deak likened adolescence to trying 31 different flavours of ice cream – it’s important to find out what we like, and don’t like, during adolescence so we can make better choices in our adulthood.
Q. Is homework given out every night?
A. Not every night but it is given. The expectation differs depending on subjects and year groups. If there is homework then students are directed to write it in their diaries. Even when there is no homework, though, students are advised to read through their notes, summarise chapters and generally keep up to date with the topics.
Q. How can I support my child to learn? I didn’t cover anything like this in high school.
A. Even if the maths or science is really complex we can help our children by encouraging them to be prepared. Come to school ready to learn with enough pens, pencils, erasers and paper etc to get through each day. Stationery supplies can be kept in lockers in case it’s required urgently. Make sure the calculator has working batteries (keep spares at home) and help organise notes into subject files. This doesn’t mean doing the tasks for our teens, but it is important to show young adults how to organise their work spaces and not expect them to know this automatically.
Get a list of useful reading here: Useful Reading for Parents of Teenagers