Last night we hosted a free community forum to help parents nurture confidence and resilience in their teenagers so they can build healthy and respectful relationships.
Noted psychologist Andrew Fuller explained the needs and strengths of boys and girls in building resilience, particularly in their relationships with others and themselves. Parents learned strategies to encourage teenage boys to resist peer pressure and be respectful of girls. They also learned ways they can empower girls to be confident, without losing their voice or identity.
Andrew noted the many ways teenagers can get caught in negative behaviour: social media, in particular, can lead to a loss of identity and loss of reality in relationships. Being caught in toxic environments that normalise aggressive or unhealthy relationships can lead teenagers to model this same behaviour. He says that modelling good relationships and treating each other with respect is the key to helping boys with anger issues and girls with anxiety and vulnerability.
"We need to have them around adults who know how relationships work," he said, "what men say about women to their sons is critical - we must teach them to be respectful."
Our Deputy Principal and Head of Plenty Campus, Dan Brown, says the forum would be the first in a series to support the local community on its parenting journey.
Dan, who also organised a session for Middle School parents on bonding, is a strong believer in schools partnering with families to share positive knowledge and strategies. He is passionate about the School bringing experts to the local community to share their parenting tips, in this case about relationships. He says this is particularly important when we live in a time when social media amplifies young people's mistakes, which can be daunting for parents.
"A lot of parents are reluctant to talk about these challenges with others," he says. "They may feel alone, but such experiences are common. The more we can normalise discussing them, the better."
Andrew outlined his work with Resilient Youth, which has identified key predictors of wellbeing and resilience, largely centred around feeling Connected, Protected and Respected (CPR).
Research has shown that most children who have positive interpersonal values feel connected to adults in their lives and safe at home and at school. But overall resilience levels decline as children get older and cyberbullying worsens slightly at high school, peaking in Years 9-10. Andrew says some of these issues can be tackled by supporting children to build respectful relationships, have a voice and being involved in community projects.
“Resilient schools and communities enable people to feel protected, respected and connected,” Andrew says.