The first Parents Council of Washington (PCW) meeting of the 2009/2010 school year was held at the Holton-Arms School on Wednesday, September 30th from 9am-12pm.
The meeting was an opportunity for the PCW board and each member school’s representatives to go over the program calendar for the year and review the duties of a PCW representative: To Give, To Receive and To Share Information back to your school.
There will be 10 programs this year hosted by the PCW (up from 7 last year) including the upcoming PA Presidents’ Networking Coffee, Dean’s Round Table Lunch, Student Leader Breakfast, and a Speaker Program which will be held November 12, at 7pm at NCS’s Hearst Hall. Dr Robyn Sawyer, author of the book SEXPERIENCE, and professor at the University of Maryland, will speak on Beyond the Birds and the Bees.
The meeting began with introductions, a general calendar and website overview, and ended with smaller group discussions aimed at encouraging the member schools to let the PCW board know how it can be most useful.
The second portion of the meeting was a lively and informative talk given by Michelle Kriebel, counselor and educator, entitled
“But Everyone Else Is!” … Our Children and Peer Pressure: Why adolescents are susceptible to peer pressure and strategies to help.
The following summarizes her presentation:
A lot of the behaviors we see in our children today are age and developmentally appropriate. In the adolescent brain, the area that causes children to want to take risks, feel strong emotions, and live in the here and now, develops earlier than the area that has control over executive functions, judgment, long range thinking, and decision-making ability. As a parent, It is important to remember what it was like to want to be part of the group. Children today have the same kind of issues we had, but are facing them at a much younger age.
Michelle took the phrase below to explain how our children perceive themselves in relation to their peers:
EVERYONE – “everyone” is the group that really matters to adolescents the group that they want to measure themselves against. In the middle and high school years, biological changes cause children to feel things at a totally different level. They begin to use words like never, always, everyone, etc. Girls seem to put a language to these feelings more than boys.
IS –the “is world” is their immediate and only concern—living in the moment and not thinking about any consequences of their actions or choices. This is the reason why good kids sometimes do stupid things. Academic intelligence doesn’t equal emotional intelligence. Teens need boundaries because they need help with decision-making. Their still developing brain tells them to seek thrills and isn’t yet developed enough to help them see consequences. We need to love our children unconditionally, not trust them unconditionally.
ELSE – this is the comparison children make of themselves to other children. This is the time in life when fitting in becomes paramount. Parents need to be aware of who their children’s ELSE is. For example, who are they dressing like? Even in schools with uniforms these groups are able to identify themselves with their “own uniforms.” It is totally natural and normal for your child not to want to stick out and to want to be part of the group.
Because of technology kids have much greater access to the media than we ever had, and can define their “peers” in a much wider group. “EVERYONE” could be someone like Brittany Spears or Lindsay Lohan so it is important to be aware of these influences on your child as well as immediate school peers.
BUT – If the conversation with your child starts with her saying, “But…,” that’s good news for you as a parent. “But” means that what she is asking is outside of what he or she understands to be the family standard. For example, “But, everyone will be at the party,” or “But, everyone will be going.” If the conversation starts with “but,” your child knows he or she is asking for something that strays from your family values. That is why it is important that you talk to your children about your family values and what is acceptable.
“BUT EVERYONE ELSE IS“ – this is a reminder to have conversations with your children about all of these things. Remember, it is generally best not to “pounce on them as soon as they get in the car after school“ as they are exhausted by the EVERYONE, ELSE, and IS that they experience each day at school. This can be emotionally overwhelming for them.
Strategies to Help
- At the end of the day, let your child lead the conversation about what happened during the day. Avoid asking specific questions and putting your child on the defensive. Try to be patient and let them guide the conversation.
- If your child comes to you with a question or concern or request, be sure to validate what they are feeling. Then, together talk about what the choices/options are. It is important to allow our children to develop their own voice.
- As parents, we need to allow our children to experience disappointment so that they can develop resiliency. Our children need to learn how to cope with, and move on from, disappointment
- We need to spend quantity time with our children, not just quality time, so that when our children are ready to talk, we are around to listen.
- Family traditions and routines are very important to maintain. Kids need to be connected to their childhood more than ever at this time of heightened peer pressure.
- Help your children identify other adult mentors in their lives—a coach, teacher, relative, neighbor, religious person—that they can talk to and who will support them. Another adult can say the same thing that the parent can say, but the child may be better able to “hear” the message.
- Parents need to remember that until the adolescent brain has finished developing (in the mid-twenties) that academic intelligence cannot be equated with social intelligence. Just because your child is smart and a good kid, it does not mean that he or she is ready to take on adult situations. As parents, we need to set appropriate boundaries and make sure our kids are in developmentally appropriate situations.
- Service to others is a great way for children to get perspective.
- Children need to find a passion that is all their own.
- As parents, we need to make sure that there is a period of time every day when our children disconnect from all technology.
- As parents, we must model appropriate behaviors—we must model what we want our children to do.
- Parents must network with one another and connect with one another.