Yes, school is our current path to academic achievement, and education as a vehicle for success is a highly praised and valued trait of many teenagers’ parents’ lives. 

School is more than just academic achievement. And often the rangatahi who achieve success in academia will also be acknowledged by schools for success in other areas: sports, drama, arts, leadership. These rangatahi have come to school ready for a heart, body, and soul education, not just academic achievement. 

Part of their path to success has been mastering social relationships as they demonstrate emotional intelligence with their peers and teachers. Solid relationship management involves deliberately choosing to bring our best intentions and our most emotionally intelligent selves into our day-to-day words and actions.

And the teenage years give us the perfect place to be both challenged and to learn from these challenges. 

As our rangatahi move back to school, it’s not just new stationery, teachers, and a timetable they love. It’s also about seeing their friends and all that entails: the fun, the dramas, the camaraderie, the rapport, the laughter, the tears. 

As parents, our role is to guide our rangatahi through this time. And the most effective way to do this is by being the listener. The listener who is curious. Who keeps their judgment out of the conversation; allowing their rangatahi to talk. And helping them to identify the emotions that come up for them as they process the things that have happened during their day. 

Being the parent who is able to do this gives your rangatahi an enormous head start in developing their personal awareness of how they are feeling, which then greatly affects how they show up in the world. A valuable question to include in your conversations is, “Tell me more.”

“Tell me more,” shows you’re listening. You’d like to know. You’re curious as to what happened next/how things were resolved (or not) and what their opinion on the incident was. “Tell me more,” is most effective when it’s delivered in a curious tone, and your body language is open and neutral. And somedays, just managing that much is worthy of a parenting gold medal.

As parents, our rangatahi are the most important people to us. Of course they are! We’ve cherished and nurtured these mini people over the years and as they get involved in schoolyard skirmishes our need to protect them is huge. Enormous. We don’t want them to get hurt by callous friends any more than we didn’t want them to fall off their bikes when they were learning to ride. 

So when our rangatahi open up to us and tell us about something they thought was unfair/unjust/didn’t go their way, our first parenting instinct is to rush in. We want to deflect the hurt, the embarrassment, the negative consequences. We leap to their defense with our opinions, our comments, and our fix-it solutions. And all said and done with the best of intentions.

Unfortunately, we’re actually making things worse for our rangatahi. Yes. Worse. 

When we jump in, we’re adding our opinions, our pasts, and our judgments to their situation. And … it’s not about us. Not even a little bit. It’s about them. It’s their lives. Their thoughts. Their opinions.

The thing they really need us to do is to help them unpack it all. They really need a curious, judgment-free zone where they can air their thoughts and opinions without having extra stuff added in. They need a parent who can help them identify their feelings, name their emotions and look at the things that happened from a neutral place, with curiosity. And unconditional parental love. 

Holding that space for them is hard. It really does mean some deliberately conscious parenting decisions have to happen. Bringing genuine curiosity to a conversation is a superpower that will serve you well.

Feel free to reach out and see how I can help you because every rangatahi deserves a parent who can parent them to be the very best version of themselves.