Adolescence is obviously a significant stage in a person’s growth and development. As defined, it is the period of time it takes a person to move from being a child to an adult. Puberty is the physical stage but adolescence is defined as the social, behavioural and emotional changes that also occur. Hence, this is always a stage in life that is difficult to navigate: for young people, parents and teachers.
Recently I have held a few meetings with students and families of students who are having difficulty when communicating with adults. At San Clemente we are always striving to promote individual strengths, confidence, assertiveness and spirit. Students who have their own thoughts and opinions are valued at San Clemente but it is also important that these strengths are used in combination with social intelligence, self-control, fairness and kindness. In saying this, arguments in adolescence are a healthy and natural part of development. The young person is testing his or her power of disagreement with parents (or teachers) by contesting their power of authority. The ability to disagree yet maintain a healthy relationship is something adolescents need more of to handle the challenges of peer friendships, work place relationships and moving toward being confident young adults. Here in, again, lies difficulties for all sides when young people are testing the boundaries, often unknowingly, with significant adults in their lives. Arguments, or debates, become like “sparring sessions” for young people, sharpening their skills for the real world, whilst leaving the adult “sparring partner” left perhaps upset, offended or even exhausted.
It also just happens that the most difficult age that these “sparring sessions” can occur are in mid-adolescence age 14, 15, 16 years (Or Year 8, 9 & 10) and at San Clemente that makes up most of our student population. Fortunately in our community, relationships are held at a priority with forgiveness and understanding at the core of what we do. My last word on this is a technique I have promoted and practiced in my time as an educator. Three key words for adolescents, parents and teachers that may turn an argument into a healthy, robust, intelligent discussion:
TIME Is this conversation occurring at the correct time? Is one member of the discussion distracted or too busy? Can I find a better time?
MANNER Am I speaking calmly and respectfully? Do I need to take a break and come back to the discussion when I am in a better headspace?
PLACE Is this the most ideal physical space for this discussion? Should it be more (or less) private? Should I ask to speak somewhere else?
Nathan Beckett, Assistant Principal, Wellbeing