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What Parents Need, What Teenagers Need

Health & Wellness
Colin Montgomery, Kathryn Als, Carolyn Green and Rebecca Nielson

As a parent of two launched young adults, I have the opportunity to look back at parenting my teenagers with the gift of hindsight. What I remember most about this time of my life is a constant feeling of uncertainty that my partner and I were doing the right thing with regard to how we were raising our children. We spent countless hours, on our once-a-week date nights, talking about parenting challenges that we were experiencing, and our hopes and dreams for our two children. As intellectuals, we both sought out parenting books and devoured them page by page, only to find that there was rarely a perfect fit with the situation we had at hand and the advice we were receiving. I felt that there were times that we ‘bumbled’ along hoping for the best. 

As a principal, I frequently find myself still reading parenting books, this time in support of our teachers, students and their families. Over the years, I have had the pleasure of being in audiences with guest speakers who have been incredible, and whom I wished I had encountered earlier in my life. With this in mind, I thought it would be worthwhile to share some of the nuggets of information that I have found especially useful, as well as some great resources, as a prelude to our Senior School Parent Book Club which Rebecca Nielson and I, along with our two counsellors, Kathryn Als and Colin Montgomery, will host in January. 

From his years of working with children of all ages, Dr. Peter Glassman shares with parents what children tell him they need from their parents. He summarizes it into the following categories: 

  • Family love and meaningful time together
  • Recognition and acceptance
  • Nurturing of the child’s true Identity
  • Having family expectations of goodness, respectfulness, kindness, and always striving for your personal best
  • Autonomy and independence
  • Boundaries with consequences 
  • Some degree of spirituality, whatever form that takes for each family 
  • Childhood joy 

He has two parts to his presentation, which are both a great read: Part 1 and Part 2. What I learned from Dr. Glassman was that there is no silver bullet to solve parenting challenges. He would suggest that when faced with a problem, that you sit down with the child at a family meeting and have a conversation with them about the issue, inviting their input as to possible solutions.  

A book that significantly impacted my parenting, when my children were in High School and we were preparing for post-secondary studies, was Julie Lythcott-Haims’ How to Raise an Adult. From her decade of experience as Stanford University’s dean of freshmen, she talks about the overparenting trap and its consequences for our children. I think that we have all heard of overparenting: helicopter parenting, out-of-control parenting​​, lawnmower parenting, overprotective parenting​​, and intensive parenting​; and if truth be told, I will admit to being a helicopter parent and it was stressful! Lythcott-Haims proposes an alternative way to parent by ensuring that children have unstructured time and chart their own path, and that we prepare them for hard work and normalize struggle, and teach them how to think and give them life skills. 

And finally, the book that we are going to be using for our book club, The Emotional Lives of Teenagers: Raising Connected, Capable, and Compassionate Adolescents by Lisa Damour. For those of you who need to watch and listen, here is a video recorded earlier this year. Dr. Damour addresses the all-important topic of teenage emotions by explaining the associated myths, gender and emotions, emotions and everyday life, and managing emotions (i.e., expressing emotions and regaining control).

Staff holding the book

We are looking forward to spending some quality time talking about our learnings from reading this book, one chapter at a time, with question prompts from Dr. Damour’s Discussion Guide for Parents. None of us are experts, but being able to share our parenting experiences, both challenges and successes, can help us draw strength from each other. 

You are invited to join us from 6:45 to 7:00 p.m. for coffee/tea and a cookie, with the session running from 7:00 to 8:00 p.m. in the Dining Hall on the following days and covering the specific chapters: 

  • The Introduction and Chapter 1: Tuesday, January 23
  • Chapter 2: Tuesday, February 6 
  • Chapter 3: Tuesday, February 27
  • Chapter 4: Tuesday, March 12
  • Chapter 5 and the Conclusion: Tuesday, April 9

Please note, these dates may change and notice will be given well in advance. Please complete this form to RSVP your intention to participate.

We look forward to sharing our experiences and learning together.

Carolyn Green is the Principal of our Senior School.