Addressing youth self-perception and emotional and social changes associated with puberty – Ruyton Powerful Parenting Series.
Someone once said, ‘Parenting isn’t a practice, it’s a daily learning experience’. How true these words are and how important they became in recent times when our ‘real’ lives played out through ‘virtual’ school, social events and recreational pursuits as Victoria was once again in COVID-19 lockdown. While teachers, regardless of the setting, continued to provide rich learning experiences for students, parents at times grappled with the delicate balance of maintaining a well-functioning home life while overseeing the daily learning environment of their daughters and the challenges these competing demands presented. On reflection, together we all did extremely well and the importance of shared responsibility, strong partnerships and the need to reassess and adapt came to the fore.
What also become clearer was the realisation that while the support of digital platforms was a significant factor in our collaborative success, there was a need to continue to address the way students saw themselves, how they thought others saw them, and how they socially interacted with the world around them; especially as we witnessed the increasingly pervasive nature of their digital world.
During 2020 Mission Australia also conducted their annual Youth Wellbeing survey and what emerged was the increasing challenge young people face with body image. This was not totally unexpected given much of the preceding months had been spent online and exposure to often unrealistic online content was at its greatest. This data, along with our own observations led to our first Powerful Parenting Series evening for 2021 which focused on body image and the complexities associated with accepting and being comfortable in one’s own skin. In the past this concern was seen mainly in Senior School students but unfortunately this is now becoming evident at a younger age. A presentation by The Butterfly Foundation offered parents and guardians the opportunity to delve into the complexities surrounding body image and the way it sometimes manifested itself negatively in their daughters. It also offered parents guidance on how to respond to these challenges and the ways they might support their daughters, particularly during the more vulnerable years.
Another area of interest that we felt parents would value support in was managing the emotional and social changes associated with puberty. There is increasing evidence that what was once known as the challenging ‘teenage years’ are now occurring earlier, around Year 5. Research in this area suggests that the early stages of puberty are occurring as much as six years before physical signs can be seen. In response to the challenges this presents to both educators and parents, we sought the guidance of one of Australia’s most accomplished parenting authors and journalists, Madonna King. Madonna spoke in depth to parents and staff about matters pertinent to students as they moved from childhood to the teenage years. How did they feel, what did they think about, what worried them and what we could do to help? Much of her presentation focused on her Australian research which has culminated in her new publication, Ten-agers. During the evening Madonna stressed the importance of positive parental involvement, helping children to develop resilience and the need for them to ‘run their own race’. She also stressed the importance of developing a language of positive communication, an essential element in respectful relationships.
Ruyton continues to offer the Powerful Parenting Series throughout the year to support our families to meet the challenges of raising children and teens and to address emerging areas of interest.
Director of Wellbeing
Ruyton Girls' School