The wonder of Christmas and celebration of the New Year are only weeks away. Families will be reunited again around the festive table and many of us will see friends and family we have not seen for years due to the restrictions of the pandemic.
In all the hustle and bustle of getting the house and food ready for visitors, we sometimes forget to nurture the relationships that underpin all of these celebrations. In the busyness of our daily lives, we sometimes live past our family members with very few deep, heartfelt connections and many logistical conversations about pick up and drop off and what they have to remember.
I speak to many teenagers who say that they live in their rooms and only come out for a meal. Some of them have not had a meaningful conversation with their parents in years. It may seem like they are shunning you but they do crave some input from you.
If you have a teenager who tells you everything, you can count yourself blessed. You know what is going on in their lives and if you insert some subtle life advice, you can guide them more successfully.
If you have a teenager who lives like a hermit in your house, it is worth coaxing them out of their room and asking some unemotive questions about friends, activities and things that interest them and that may get some responses. Most boys actually speak better when they are not making eye contact while doing an activity or learning to drive.
The teenage years can be hard to navigate but building open lines of communication and listening to stories from your teenager that you don’t understand (or care about) can create the special bond in their minds that their parents are always listening. You may have to listen to elaborate descriptions of friendship intrigues or technical car and computer facts that really do not interest you in order to create that bond.
If they can tell you the little things now, they will tell you the big things later.
Sometimes your child may tell you something really disturbing and your reaction to it will determine how much they will tell in future. If they tell of some dangerous or irresponsible behaviour by other people or their own mistakes, our first response may be to get angry because we are so scared for them. It may be better to hold back, ask a few clarifying questions and then help them to explore possible courses of action that may remedy or resolve the issue. This will model composure under pressure, taking responsibility for your actions and problem solving which are essential life skills.
Please use this festive season to try and engage meaningfully with each of your children and family members to build those happy relationships that can last a lifetime.
God bless you and Merry Christmas!
Bert Kasselman, Head of Senior School