After a busy year, students, parents and teachers are looking forward to the long holiday break. A change of routine, a chance to sleep in a little longer, an opportunity to catch up with friends, perhaps some holiday jobs (within or outside of the home) and even an opportunity to do some academic revision, if required, will fill the holidays. The lack of structure and routine is pleasant; however we should consider what happens during this long stretch of holiday time if the holidays are to be a balanced and beneficial time for all.
Reading is always on my list of holiday activities as reading provides for me the perfectly balanced holiday activity. Reading is both intellectually stimulating and physically relaxing; it allows me to be fully engaged in what I am reading and at the same time disengaged from the world around me. I enjoy reading Hugh Mackay’s books and his latest endeavour, “The Good Life”, will be among my books for holiday reading. In one of Mackay’s earlier books, “Advance Australia …Where?” he writes about finding the balance in our parenting. Mackay refers to “helicopter parenting” where children are “cosseted, controlled, supervised and protected by their protective parents.” Adolescents tend to rebel against excessive parental constraints and parents, understandably, become more anxious about rebellious adolescents and try to constrain them further. This can become a vicious cycle within the family.
Adolescents are typically establishing a sense of identity, exploring new challenges and testing limits. Holiday periods, like term time, provide a context in which this can happen. The challenge for parents, as well as for students, lies in establishing a safe and healthy balance of activities. Parents who establish appropriate limits and behavioural guidelines for young people are safeguarding them until they have the maturity to make safe choices for themselves. Parents and adolescents may each have a different view as to what constitutes “appropriate limits”. This may differ from family to family depending upon family values, upon the adolescent’s maturity level and capacity to make sound judgements. Finding the optimum balance between appropriate limits and increased freedom which is appropriate to the adolescent’s emerging maturity is not easy and requires open, honest and calm discussion between those concerned. Patience and understanding are required along with a willingness to provide opportunities for adolescents to show that they are capable of making good choices and can be trusted.
Limits provide security because even if the adolescent doesn’t like imposed limits, there can still be an understanding that these limits are in place because parents love and care for them. Mackay later points out “Perhaps we need to remember that, in the end, parents are not obliged to be their children’s friends; … They’re parents, and discipline is part of their responsibility to their children.” Enjoy the holidays. Find time to relax and try to establish the optimum balance in a range of holiday activities.
© Michele Juratowitch