Graduated Independence

Chris Ivey / Academic

At the commencement of the year

26 February 2021

From Our Principal Reverend Chris Ivey: Graduated Independence

Dear St Andrew’s community,

At the commencement of the year, I shared with our parent community, both face to face at welcome functions and in my newsletter, the important task of ‘Building Connections’. It’s one of St Andrew’s core value statements and our focus this year is in finding opportunities for parents to get to know each other. As we know, it really couldn’t happen at all last year but when there is strength and capacity in our relationships with other parents, we have more confidence to support each other, particularly when things get a little more challenging.

So as the dust starts to settle on the new school year, student friendships begin to consolidate and the opportunities for social gatherings increase. While this is a wonderful aspect of childhood, particularly of the adolescent journey, most parents are acutely aware that it also comes with some trepidation. We all want to watch our children grow up in a healthy and safe environment; the challenges of navigating this journey increase with the advent of our children seeking greater independence and the desire to seek out risk-taking behaviours including drugs and alcohol. As you read the article below, the focus is on parents, but the underlying message is to always know what your child is up to and very often that will involve another St Andrew’s family!

Paul Dillion from Drug and Alcohol Research and Training Australia (DARTA) writes about this in his article from 2020. He refers to a ‘seismic shift’ that occurs in the social activity in teenagers from Year 9 onwards. This is the age when many adolescents start to pull away from the influence of their parents and begin to align their views and experiences more closely with their peers. They wish to seek out their own identity, distinct from that of their parents. This is essentially normal behaviour.

Dillion’s article prepares parents for difficult conversations. He provides the following list of useful tips that pre-empt what you may wish to say or do when addressing these conversations. He also provides the impetus to consider how your core values align regarding underage drinking, drug use and party culture, as a family unit. Being able to draw on your values and the values of other families is so powerful during these challenging times. I hope these few tips are helpful. And for our Primary parents, whilst the issues may be different, it is worth instilling some of these habits now when our children are a little younger.

  • Don't be bullied into making decisions. Gather the information you need to make an informed decision and if they tell you they need to know now - the answer is 'no'. Take your time and get it right. If both parents are on the scene, make it clear that both of you make decisions around sleepovers and parties. Teens are extremely clever at setting up one parent against the other and it is vital that you display a 'united front' here. Make it clear by telling them – "Don’t come to me, don't go to them – come to us!"  I acknowledge this is a challenge in situations where parents are separated but these are the times when you may need to provide that united front. It will be worth it.
  • Know where your child is and who they're with. No parent likes to hear this and many refuse to believe it, but at this age they're likely to start lying about where they're planning on going. If you want to let it slide, that's up to you, but you'll never forgive yourself if something terrible happens. At this age you should always take them to where they're going and pick them up. Don't leave it up to someone else to do if you can possibly help it.
  • Always call the host parents. Speak to them and find out some basic information about supervision and whether alcohol will be provided or tolerated. Your teen is not going to like this and they'll most probably tell you that you're ruining their life, but you won’t! Thousands of parents have done this, because that's your job! If they tell you that they hate you - respond with "But I love you ..."
  • Create rules and consequences and stick to them. If you haven't done this already, the beginning of Year 9 is a great time to have a family discussion about the rules you have around parties and alcohol. The consequences of breaking those rules should also be clearly laid out and agreed to by your child. They can't say they're unfair later if they've agreed to them. Most importantly, if you don't follow-through should a rule be broken, you may as well throw in the towel now. The first time you buckle and let something slip, you will lose your credibility and your rules will become totally ineffective
  • If they don't like the rules, the rules are most probably perfect. But remember, acknowledge good behaviour and modify the rules as they get older to make sure they're age appropriate.
  • If things start to get out of control, get help. Too often parents leave it too long to seek help should things be going wrong in this area. If your teen is displaying difficult behaviours for example, disappearing on a Saturday night and not coming home, that is not normal behaviour. You can always start with the Head of Year, College Psychologist or your GP, but make sure you talk to someone and get professional advice if things start to get too difficult or you feel like you aren’t coping.

Raising our children is no easy journey- it’s a marathon! My wife Elizabeth and I have been on the journey for 24 years with four children and we still have some way to go. What we have learned along the way is that we are far from perfect, but the best we can do as parents is to be consistent, to set age appropriate boundaries and responsibilities, to always find ways to communicate with them and that they know without any doubt of our love for them despite the challenges.

As a College, we want to walk the journey with you, acknowledging that there are times when it is messy and difficult. We are always up for supporting you as parents in this journey if you’re willing to partner with us. Please be in contact if you have any concerns about what’s happening with your children, not just at school but outside of school.

Best wishes

Author Profile

Chris Ivey

In his own words, Chris “enables things to happen” at St Andrew’s. As Principal of the College, he leads the development and progression of St Andrew’s by enabling staff and students to achieve their personal best. Chris is a Reverend and has been the Principal of St Andrew’s for more that 15 years. He also represents and advocates for Independent schools across Australia as the National Chair of AHISA (Association of Heads of Independent Schools, Australia).

Related Stories

Empowering our students for the future

February 26, 2024

Read Full Blog
Navigating Digital Wellbeing at St Andrew's

February 05, 2024

Read Full Blog
Developing Habits for Learning

February 05, 2024

Read Full Blog

Connect with us