A secure base for well-being

Alan White New

Alan White

I recently began a new job in my school as Home School Community Liaison. This is a role that most schools don’t have and is one that I am finding challenging to get to grips with. What am I supposed to be doing, is a question I often ask myself? Having come from the assurance of the classroom, where I felt secure and in control of my environment and I always knew what I was supposed to do.

Starting anything new is challenging for all of us. When we first decide to make a change, be it big or small, feelings of anxiety and insecurity tend to come to the surface. People are generally creatures of habit and we all like our comfort zones on one level, but another part of us intuitively knows that in order to grow, we need to leave our comfort zone and take on new challenges.

What has helped me over the past few months cope with this new challenge is knowing that I have a secure base, both at home and in school. I have people who support me. People who can advise me when needed and sometimes just listen when I’m frustrated. This has given me the mental space and security to navigate this challenging time for myself.

A big part of my new job is working with parents of young people. Very often the young people in question are having difficulties in school, academic, behavioural or emotional. And I have quickly realised that to help the young person, its often also necessary to help their parent(s). Parenting is an extremely difficult task and is becoming increasingly so as society and how young people interact, becomes more complex.

Young people often pull away from their parents and begin to reject their influence. As a teenager struggles to gain more freedom and control in their lives, parents are often met with aggressive, withdrawn or secretive behaviours. This can be very stressful for a parent, who is left wondering what to do and how to reconnect with their child.

However if a young person is behaving like this, although it may be unpleasant to experience, it means that they have had a secure base at home when they were a child and are confident enough to explore new things and ways of doing things for themselves. What young people really want is to be able to be independent, but still have the security of knowing that their parents are still there for them, even when their behaviour would suggest otherwise.

It is not possible for a young person to have the complete freedom that they want, as they also need to adhere to the boundaries and responsibilities of home and school life. In fact parents need to remain firm and keep boundaries with them. It is possible to keep this positive discipline while remaining connected with young people.

Teenagers need and thrive with the right balance of support and boundaries. To remain connected, parents need to be there to support them through the ordinary suffering of life, such as worry, stress, loneliness and boredom, and help them navigate the difficulties they will encounter.

Remaining connected, even when it feels like you are growing apart, can be helped by being there for them. Make sure they feel listened to and supported and take an active interest in their lives. At this time in a young person’s development, it is important that their opinions are heard and not criticised unfairly. Anyone who has ever met a teenager will be aware of how important justice, fairness and their views can be to them. If they feel that their feelings on things are rejected by a significant adult in their lives then they will inevitable pull further away.

Parenting is not an easy task during the teenage years. However it can be made easier by managing the dual role of parenting, which is setting firm rules and boundaries, while also supporting them and remaining connected by actively taking an interest in their lives. One way to do this is to take an interest in their interests, which will help them to feel both connected and supported.

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