Every year, I’m amazed at how fast summer flies by and before we know it fall has arrived warning us that winter is on its way. The 2012-2013 school year is about to begin and with it a set of new students and anxious parents who are trying to keep up with what their kids are doing.
Not that long ago, only kids were anxious about what to expect when going back to school, but an increasing number of parents today are finding themselves overwhelmed by the number of issues they are unaware of.
Teenaged students today are facing concerns that I never dealt with more than a decade ago. Cell phones, texting, sexting, and cyber bullying are some of the many issues that face our future generations. Without proper guidance and preparations our young people are forced to navigate through these challenging issues alone, which we all know can lead down some dark paths with little hope of return.
Police are seeing an increasing number of teenagers sending racy photographs to one another and then using them as leverage when the relationship gets rocky. Much of the motivation to even send these images is due to stronger than usual emotions towards a particular relationship.
Special attention should be directed to friendships during the early years of adolescence (12-15). My experience as a youth counsellor and education in psychology tells me that relationships during the earliest years of adolescence are more intense than any other friendship. These relationships are usually accompanied by strong emotions and can significantly influence the development of personality and social skills.
It’s important to note that the role of a parent should evolve as quickly as a child grows and successful parents are usually the ones that have already planned for their children’s next stage of development. We may not be able to make decisions for them during conflicts, but we can certainly influence how they prepare for conflicts.
This means educating yourself on the current issues that our kids are facing, preparing a plan of attack to deal with the situation, and having the confidence to talk about topics that may be quite uncomfortable to discuss within the parent-child relationship. If you already have an open communication type of relationship with your kids, than facing these issues together should be little more than maintenance.
Remember, you’re not alone! Use what’s available out there to assist you. There are a number of public counsellors and places throughout our city with tons of resources for parents. Your local community health centres are a great place to start and our Community Police Centres (CPC) are always stocked with materials for families.
Teachers and friends are excellent resources for monitoring the progress of your child outside of the home. Talking to a teacher or their friend can reveal valuable information that you were not aware of and can give you the edge when trying to navigate through trying times.
If you have recognized that your child is already heading down the wrong path and don’t know how to deal with it, the Ottawa Youth Services Bureau (ysb.on.ca) is a great place to start. With a variety of programs for both parents and youths, staff members at YSB are well trained to deal with a variety of problems. It can also assist in proactive programs such as employment and mental health maintenance.
Most important, don’t give up! Failing to address minor concerns today and lead to repairable problems down the road. Far too often, police are called to the scene of an uncontrollable youth who has been conditioned through years of poor decision making.