Tips for raising a happy and healthy teenager
You may have read the article in Saturday’s Times which interviewed Dr Dominique Thompson who with Fabienne Vailes has written a book “How to Grow a Grown Up”.
During Dr Thompson’s years as a GP at Bristol University she has seen an unhealthy rise in parental involvement in young people’s lives and she has advice for raising a happy teenager. She starts by saying do not accompany your child to university open days. When I went through the application process, and in those days all universities interviewed for virtually all courses, I did go alone to the assessment day. Everyone was unaccompanied. However, in recent years university open days have geared their marketing as much towards parents as applicants and many perhaps feel they should show an interest, after all their child is about to take on a huge debt.
Dr Thompson also believes in not trying to make your child believe that they have underachieved/failed academically when really they have disappointed parental hopes. This is difficult. Some parents may feel that their child could do better. The important message to teenagers always must be that they achieve results for themselves and never to just please parents. When I was at school I knew of peers whose parents rewarded or paid them for every A grade result at O Level. My parents refused when I pleaded with the “it’s not fair” line and all those years ago I was told quite categorically that the results were mine to own.
I have often written about the tricky waters that parents navigate to raise a happy healthy teenager. Getting it right is not easy and different children respond variably to attempts to guide their development and achievement. However, everyone from doctors to university lecturers to employers and teachers report on the increase of parent involvement in older teenagers’ lives to a level that does not allow youngsters to become independent people. I am fortunate because our sixth formers do take ownership and, for example, email me directly about absence for open days or even to thank me for something school has enabled them to receive. Everyday there is an example of a pupil showing grit, resilience and independence. Maybe that is why they fare so well on leaving our sixth form.