Navigating High School

Posted on May 22, 2017


I find myself with two teenage sons in the midst of high school. Assignments due and exams to study for. They must be done. Stress. Anxiety. Clear thinking. Getting one’s head around things.
Hang on, what am I doing here?
I’ve done this before, myself when I went through high school.
I vowed to make the HSC better for my kids before they had to do it.
I would never dream of trying to tame that out-of-control tiger, there is no controlling it. For the next few years it’s a matter of navigating our way around it. When teenagers’ bodies are growing and new, when they want to be out having fun with friends. How do I open up future opportunities for them (uni) but help them enjoy being a teenager?
I have clients with children who hate school, socially, the bullying, mostly girls.
When my boys were small I’d try emotion coaching and researched experts such as John Gottman. I told friends what I’d researched and some who didn’t listen, have troubled teenagers. I’m so glad I tried. Invest in your kids as soon as possible, every day is valuable, you’ll reap dividends, I said. At least I listened to my own advice.
Single mothers too busy making ends meet, paying off the mortgage rather than dealing with their child’s anger, now have teenagers who won’t talk to them. They come to me after years of the damage being done. If only they’d come ten years ago.
Now mortgages are worse and I can’t imagine the stress parents are under. Listen to your kids. Take time to be with your kids. Before you know it they’re getting pimples and trying alcohol.
Social is everything. Friends, being happy at school. If they’re not happy or bored at school, change schools, they make a bunch of new friends.
I’ve put structure around my boys. Sport. Gym. Good male role models. I’ve been to the shops countless times to buy healthy food to feed their growing bodies. They need good nutrition.

What was I going to say? I can’t blame it on baby brain any more.
Oh yeah.
Lost amongst all of this machine of the school system, the curriculum, the HSC, what’s never mentioned is “What are they best at?”
Where’s the psychological testing to find out what each child is best at?
A form comes home and we are expected to organise a week’s work experience for our child. Luckily we have good professionals around us who we draw on.

I’ll try to find good psychological testing to see what career my boys would suit. No one mentions these things. The conveyor belt of high school, HSC, uni, lurches towards us and we don’t know where they might best fit in.

But what about the other kids who don’t have that? They’ll be falling through the cracks. All over the place I’d imagine. Not far away are ice dealers.

The dissatisfaction I felt as a teenager is still there. The high school system with all its focus on academic achievement, ignores the gold mine it is sitting on.
That’s what I was going to say.
My boys have changed schools. Schools are the most social places ever. It’s an environment unlike any other where you get to meet hundreds or thousands of other people, and get to know them, often for years. There is so much opportunity for social learning, that’s not capitalised on.
If I ran a school full of boys and girls, I’d do reflective learning. Classes where people could safely discuss how they’re feeling and any social interactions which might be tricky.
I studied psychotherapy and did group therapy in a safe environment, where people told others honestly, what they thought of them. The facilitator has to be highly skilled. It can be an environment of personal insight.
The thing about school is that kids are not studying the important stuff. I want my kids to come home with books by John Gottman, based on his evidence based research. I want compulsory reading to be his book, What Makes Marriage Work?
I want them to have to memorise all that info and be tested at length on it in exams and essays. I want them to have to study the guts out of it, as teenagers, so that when they partner up, they know what relationships are all about.
Kids can’t afford to make mistakes, if they want to buy a house and all the rest. They can’t afford to divorce and have broken families.
I’d also get high school kids to study other books like When Men Batter Women and The Verbally Abusive Relationship, amongst others. We need to prepare our teenagers for real life, to know what to look out for in predators, how to protect themselves and how to choose wisely.
Whether all teachers are equipped to teach these things is another matter, but at least they can press play on interactive whiteboards and show videos on YouTube by experts such as Gottman. It’s actually very easy. It’s just a matter of people in government and the Department of Education who create the curriculum, having the nous.

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