As my first child entered year 9, the school decided to host an evening talk to help the parents cope with the transition of our children into adolescence, in particular the question of parties.
The talk began with the parents dividing up into small groups and brainstorming all the worries we had about teenage parties of which there were many! We revealed all our darkest fears probably fuelled by past memories of ourselves at this age and the fact that children these days seem to grow up more quickly. Armed with our bullet points, the speaker in charge, who had a huge amount of work experience with teenage children, discussed each of our worries in turn.
Much of what he suggested was stemmed from common sense and a firm guiding hand and that the magic formula which all the parents wanted to hear, to help us through the next few years of our lives with our teenagers, did not exist. Actually I am a fairly strong believer that advice needs to be given from people who not only have studied the subject but who have been through it themselves and I felt his hand was weakened by the fact that his eldest child was only just reaching adolescence. Would he be giving slightly different advice after a few years?
However I came away from that evening feeling fairly reassured that my husband and I would be able to cope with the rocky waters ahead, as we had plenty of common sense and were fairly good at standing firm and anyway, my child was showing no signs of wanting to go to any wild parties……. Well that was at the beginning of the year! It is now the end of the summer holidays and can I keep track of where my child is! Slippery eel is a phrase I have coined to explain how he sets off in one direction and ends up in completely the opposite.
It is during this year that most children become mature and independent enough to begin babysitting, to have the freedom to travel around alone sometimes singly but most often in groups and to have a part of their life, which is totally separate from their families. This is the start of the real transition from the total dependence of a child to the independence of an adult and we, as parents, want it to happen in a way that is best for our children, totally devoid of negative experiences.
This of course is unlikely to happen but for parents to feel they have some control over this transition period then perhaps the following recommendations would help:
- Have a telephone list which includes your child’s friends’ mobile numbers and their parents’ numbers too. You need to have the friends’ mobile numbers to find out where your child is when they forget to answer their own mobile or if it’s turned off and you need their parents telephone numbers to be able to check out with the parents that any arrangements made are bona fide.
- A good interrogation manner so you can find out exactly what an evening/day out entails without alienating them. Do not think that staying over at a friend’s house means an evening in watching videos. There may be a party or two planned before returning to the house to sleep so make sure you ask.
- Clear guiding principles of when you expect them to be back home, when/how often you wish to be phoned informing you of their whereabouts and what will happen if they do not follow them is needed otherwise there will be irritation and anxiety on both sides but mainly yours.
- The realization that all parents do not feel the same way. Just because children go to the same school, admire and enjoy each other’s company, does not mean that you will necessarily see eye to eye with their parents’ views and ideas. It can come as quite a shock to realize that other parents may positively encourage drinking alcohol!
- Keep a close eye on your child’s happiness and well being. If they seem preoccupied and down, then perhaps they are being catapulted by their peer group into social activity which disturbs them.
- Finally keep communication possible. Remember however much they look and act as mini adults, they still need us to advise, protect and guide them. If the lines of communication have broken down, how is that possible?