Having experienced many Parents’ evenings in my 8 years of teaching, the knack of switching from teacher, to counsellor, to mum, to advisor has become a pretty nifty and swift skill.
For many parents, the days of coming home from school, having some supper and going to your room was the place of respite and safety. Of course with the rise of socials and addiction to phones this is no longer the case.
From being ignored in a group chat, being sent abusive messages, someone requesting inappropriate images to name a few the pressure young students face is mind blowing. As for the parent, the worry and the ‘not knowing’ why their child is behaving odd (unusually quiet, snappy, not eating etc) can also have an impact.
Here are a few ‘handy hacks’ for both parents and students
* Communication – try to avoid confrontation and confiscation- Sure. The initial reaction to your child’s decisions, which in your eyes are irresponsible is to take on the natural paternal ‘disciplinarian’ role and to shout, confiscate and ground them. I am absolutely not telling you how to parent. Ultimately the choice is yours. If the usual sanctions however are not working, perhaps try something different. www.internetmatters.org is an excellent website which offers further guidance on this, but bullying and relationships have changed, and therefore so must our reactions. By being subtle, giving stories where they can figure out what the consequences are as well as some other advice below may perhaps be an alternative than to take the phone away. That is reactionary. Your child wants you to be on their side and needs your support so by changing your responses subtly may change your child’s response and they may respect you and open up to you. Remember you are the adult; your child won’t necessarily have the tools to respond in the way you desire.
* 10 years’ time scenario – okay so work with me here. Your child will be fixated with the ‘here and now’ and if totally consumed, won’t be able to see the wood from the trees. Bring them downstairs, make them a hot drink and explain to them that the phone they are using today, will 100% not be the phone they will be using in 10 years’ time. Illustrate that the likelihood is that will be the same analogy for the boy/girl they are fixated with at the moment.
* Listen and empathise – a parent who is not understanding will create a bigger wedge and division. It is crucial you give them the platform to have a voice and to be heard. It may not be your preferred situation, but coming across more understanding will stand more of a chance of a mutual respect between you with the hope of some kind of resolution and less ‘fighting fire with fire’.
* Grades last the lifetime – if your child is prioritising their girlfriends/boyfriends over their studies and you are noticing a significant impact, try sitting them down, perhaps if you can find your O-level/GCSE/A level certificates and explain that these grades are your grades and are binding. Yes forever. Children need narratives and parables to really hit a nerve; without coming across aggressive and confrontational (I know this can be so hard whe you feel increasingly frustrated with them) try this as an alternative and explain, similar as above that the grades last forever, and then question them and ask ‘do you think you will be pursuing this person when you are 25?’ see what they say and gently reinforce that is why revision now is crucial, as that is the gateway to getting their dream phone/girl/boy.
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