How to ‘keep it real’ for young people

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In an era of fake news, photo filters and cyber bullying, Principal, Mal Cater, shares about how parents, schools and the community can help to ‘keep it real’ for young people so they can maintain a positive and healthy perspective, and make an authentic connection with their world.

As a Principal, I can attest to the great responsibility that parents, schools and communities share in providing our young people with a bedrock of support and a compass in which they can safely navigate and understand the world they are growing up in. It can sometimes feel overwhelming when there are so many challenges that they will face which did not exist in our time - or even as recent as ten years ago. 

Building a culture of support for students which enables them to thrive, not just survive, is a topic that I am greatly passionate about. I see firsthand the immense impact that a strong, supportive community with meaningful connections can have on young people and how it helps to reinforce them against negative messaging that they can be exposed to online and in wider society.  

Let children be children for as long as possible.

Society places far too much pressure on young people to grow up too early in their lives. Young people need to be afforded the time and space to engage in simple pleasures, rather than complex ones, for as long as possible. Watch young people around a pool, playing ball games, immersed in adventure on our Learning Journeys or engaging in hands-on activities in the classroom; pure joy radiates from them as they cultivate their zest for life and the curiosity to learn and explore.   

Sometimes technology facilitates play and engagement; sometimes students need to switch off. The simplicity of physical or tactile activities and games foster teamwork and a great sense of accomplishment. Often when technology isn’t present, they are even more excited and engaged. At school, we have seen a rise in the number of students from right across the year levels participating in lunch time board games sessions. While technology can offer many great benefits to learning, it is important that children are supervised, are accessing age-appropriate content and are restricted in their usage time. Total immersion in technology is proven to be very unhealthy for developing minds.

Young people should not be exposed to inappropriate partying or risky behaviours. There is plenty of time throughout their adult life, when they have the maturity to make informed choices, where they can explore the social culture that they want to be a part of and the experiences they wish to have. 

The hard task of saying ‘no’ because we care. 

It is incumbent upon the support network of adults in our Community to put in place safe, healthy frameworks for young people, which provide enough room for them to grow and clear boundaries to keep them safe. At different times in their life, this will mean saying ‘no’ more often than we say ‘yes’. 

We are their parents. We are their teachers. We are their role models. We are not their best friends. The most effective relationships we can have with young people are underpinned by mutual respect. They respect us for standing by our word and demonstrating that our care for them extends above and beyond any tantrum or argument we may face in the process. 

We know that they will push our boundaries and take risks, and these are important parts of their social development as they gain independence. However, we can effectively coach them through the mistakes they make – and trust me, during adolescence there will be many - by ensuring they take responsibility for their actions. The way we communicate with them in both a verbal and non-verbal manner will strongly define who they become in the years to come.

 All of this is something that our Community does very well and, that is no more evident than at our alumni functions when I interact with the extraordinary people our graduates have become. I thank our Community for your continued support and for working together with our School to create the best outcomes for generations of young people. 

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