My son has always been very open with me, but now that he’s in secondary school I can barely get him to tell me how his day went. How can this worried mum stay connected?
Answer: By the time children enter secondary school, their march toward independence is well underway. It can be a confusing time for parents.
When a child spreads his wings, it can feel like he’s turning his back on you instead. But that’s not really the case. Your growing teen needs you as much as he always has. In some ways, more. He just needs you in a different way than he did in his formative years.
That requires us as parents to strike a delicate balance with our secondary school children. As author Cynthia Tobias says, you have to relax your grip while never taking your hands off the wheel. If you back off too much, you’ll leave them drifting and flailing. But if you lean in too hard, you’ll push them away or embarrass them.
In practical terms that means you have to lean into your son enough to take his problems seriously. The events your growing teen faces may seem of little consequence to you as an adult, but they can represent a teen’s whole life. So don’t minimise their adolescent struggles. At the same time, you have to relax your grip and not force solutions on them too quickly. As one secondary school student put it, “Don’t be gorilla dictator.” Instead, listen closely to their heart, not just their words, and help them discover an answer.
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