Just this month alone, I have been to two parenting talks and one parenting workshop. You’d think why waste time when I am already parenting two late teens. It’s never a waste of time when it comes to developing proper relationships with your family members. I hope to learn something for Aaron’s teenage years to come (next year), or just be reminded about the do’s and don’ts of parenting teenagers.
Yesterday’s talk was about ‘Transitioning to Secondary One’. Other than learning about the hardware (PSLE, DSA, Appeals, etc), we also learned the software. Two parents shared how they prepared their children for PSLE (Goal setting, time-table, and fun.) Then after the break, a family therapist, Ms Caris Patrick, delved into details. All parents, regardless of how perfect you think you are, should take some time to attend parenting talks, if not to learn, then at least to validate oneself.
At the parenting congress, we were advised to teach the kids about the birds and the bees at age 8. Yesterday, we were told, do it at two, when you start teaching the toddlers about the anatomy – Hair, head, eyes, nose, arms, fingers, skip, skip, knees, legs, toes. We were told not to skip the in-between. Teach them the proper names. (A little too late now to be telling us, parents of teens!)
Where schools used to have two ‘schools’ of sex education – abstinence and protection, the common theme is now to teach SAVE SEX, versus Safe Sex. After all, David Seah, Family Therapist at the Parenting Congress 2011 revealed, if one ejaculation contains 2 teaspoons of semen, and that amount already contains 200millions to 500millions sperms, all of which is going after one egg, how safe can sex be?
As a mother of three boys, teaching sex education is all about sharing my values. If as a financially and mentally independent adult, my son decides to go on a vacation with his girlfriend, I would not worry, not because boys ‘have nothing to lose’, but more because I hope he is responsible to face any consequences of his actions. Friends with young adult daughters fret whenever the girls announced a short vacation in Bangkok or Hong Kong with their boyfriends. I tell them, it’s too late to stop them and tell them your views now. If you have done your job well, trust that your daughters share your values.
(I remember being in my thirties and meeting an industry colleague who is a divorcee. She laments about how she may not ever have children. Her supportive mother, told her to sleep around to get pregnant, and her mother will help look after the child. Was she serious? I asked. My friend nodded, but brushed away the suggestion. )
So how does a mother cope if your child is not a straight-As-President-Scholar-do-all-the- assessments-and-ask-for-more kind of child? Rejoice! Your child is normal and probably more resilient than you think. Resilience is the ability to bounce back from failure and that is what all parents hope a child would possess.
I was reminded for the third time the three C’s to parenting a teenager. A parent has to:
1. Be a Coach – mentoring and guiding, not instructing
2. Be a Cheerleader – cheering him on even when he fails
3. Be a counsellor
It’s not easy. Mothers are like Donald Ducks, we nag nag nag. Instead, we’re advised to be more like Mickey Mouse, with two big ears to listen. With teens, we mustn’t react, especially emotionally. Teenagers are hormones-raging-emotionally-charged beings and parents need to be the other extreme – cool and calm.
Am I prepared? You bet! But I’d still attend another parenting talk.