SAPS 167 – School Closures: Helping Primary to Secondary School Kids Prepare for the Big Leap During Lock Down
Posted by: Sue Atkins
In This Special Episode :
(only available to Members of Sue’s Parenting Club Online)
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Sue Atkins appeared on ‘You Inside Out’ aka UIO podcast with Sonja Lewis. It’s a podcast exclusively for teen girls & features 25 minutes of straight talk about real issues that teenage girls are grappling with today.
Sue’s tips about friendships and teenage girls
As your child enters the teenage years, friends will become more important. Positive, accepting and supportive friendships are an important part of the journey to adulthood for your child.
Why teenage friendships are important
For teenagers, good friends can be like a personal support group. Friends and friendships give teenagers:
- a sense of belonging, a feeling of being valued and help with developing confidence
- the sense of security and comfort that comes from being with others going through similar experiences
- information about the changes that puberty brings, and what’s going on physically and emotionally
- a way to experiment with different values, roles, identities and ideas
- experience in getting along with people of the opposite sex
- a chance to experience early romantic and sexual relationships
- a social group to do new things with, especially things that are different from what families do.
Helping your teen build friendship skills
Teenagers might be focused on their friends, but they still need your help and support to build and maintain positive and supportive friendships.
Good parent-child relationships tend to lead to children having positive relationships with peers. So being warm and supportive, staying connected and actively listening to your child can help them develop friendship skills. You’ll also be better able to support your child if friendship problems come up.
Being a good role model is important too. Parents who are keen to spend time with their own friends are more likely to have children with lots of healthy friendships. It’s also important for your child to see you looking out for your friends, and showing that friendship is a two-way thing.
Praising teenagers when you see them being fair, trusting and supportive encourages them to keep working on those positive social traits.
Not all friendships are positive or good for children. Among teenagers, negative relationships are sometimes called ‘toxic friendships’ and the people in them are called ‘frenemies’. Your child might need help to avoid or deal with toxic friendships.
Frenemies and toxic friendships: what you need to know
Teenage friendships can sometimes turn ‘toxic’. Or sometimes toxic friendships can develop if your child hangs out with ‘frenemies’ – teenagers who are mean to her.
Instead of making your child feel good – like they belong and are accepted – toxic friendships can lead to your child having negative feelings about themselves or others. That’s because toxic friends often put people down, manipulate them, leave them out or behave in other mean & unkind ways.
Avoiding frenemies and toxic friendships: how to help your child
To help your child avoid toxic friendships, you can try talking with them about what ‘good’ friends are like – they’re the ones who look out for them, care about them, include them in activities and treat them with respect. This will help your teen work out which people might be good to hang out with.
You can never start too early around ‘talking and teaching’ your kids about healthy, respectful relationships.
If there are particular friends you think might be good for your child, try to make the most of their opportunities to socialise with them. For example, you might encourage them to take part in the same hobbies, sports or activities they do.
Encourage your child to have a wide range of friends from a variety of places, like school, sports or social clubs, family friends and neighbours. This means they’ll have other people to turn to if something goes wrong with a friendship.
When you get to know your child’s friends, you get the chance to quietly observe your child’s social interactions and pick up on any issues. You could encourage your child to have friends over and give them space in your home.
Talking with your child can also give you the chance to start a conversation about how it’s going with their friends. Listen to your child and use open-ended questions. When you keep the lines of communication open, your child is more likely to talk with you about any problems that come up.
As part of your talks, you could let your child know about your own friendships. This might help them to see other options and help them feel understood.
Finally, you can be a role model for forming and maintaining positive relationships – with your own friends, partner, and colleagues. Your child will learn from observing relationships where there’s respect, empathy and positive ways of resolving conflict.
At the moment – make sure they keep contact with good friends through Face Time, Skype and keep OFF social media – as it can feed misinformation, cyberbullying and ANXIETY
Be their MEDIA MENTOR – create new habits – charge the phone downstairs at night in the kitchen, turn off the router and have some boundaries around technology – use it positively to chat with Grandma but limit access so they get some sleep, stay mentally healthy and find balance and support from their friends.
Sue shares some of her Quick Win tips with us!
Keep talking together as a family. This is really crucial during times of change – good communication is also about really LISTENING to each other. Your child will have worries and questions – if they are not able to talk to you about them, those worries often grow and can lead to anxiety. Let your child know that they can ask you anything – tell them, “There’s no such thing as a silly question!” and that together you can find out whatever they need to know. It’s also important to share feelings before things get overwhelming or scary. Make time to sit together and chat. Check in with your child every now and then to ask them if they’re OK. You can do this casually with no expectations or pressure on your child. It’s reassuring for them to know that you care and are thinking about them.
Plan and Prepare
There are so very many things that you can do to plan and prepare. By now, you will know which secondary school your child is going to. So, make a list together of the things you want to know and find out. You can use the school’s website to help you answer any questions. Some schools also have a parent group on social media, where you can ask about what you want to know. You can prepare for all kinds of things, the journey to school, new subjects, finding your way around the school… The more prepared your child is and the more they know, the more positive and confident they will be when starting school.
It’s so easy to focus on the negative aspects of what’s going on at the moment. Negativity is all around us, but do remember that children are ‘sponges’, and they absorb the emotions that we put out. By focusing on the positive – on what we CAN do to get ready instead of what’s been taken away, we help give our child a positive CAN-DO attitude. This means they will look forward to starting their new school and will hit the ground running in the new school year.
Find out which fellow pupils/friends are going to the same school as your child. You can set up a group on ’WhatsApp’ or have group video calls for the children. These can be monitored by parents, to keep them safe and positive, and can promote friendship and support for the children themselves.
When the world around us delivers the unexpected, the unknown, the uncertain – we can still retain control as parents, by creating a new norm. We can do this by reassuring, by communicating, by staying positive, and by planning and preparing with our child for their future wellbeing.
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