Around this time of the year, as I run into parents of our Year 12 students at Matthew Flinders Anglican College, there are mixed emotions at the prospect of their child finishing their school journey and venturing into the next stage of their life.
For many, their children leaving the nest and living away from Queensland's Sunshine Coast is a reality with which many parents have been coming to terms for some time. Be it moving into the world of work, a university college or shared accommodation, taking a gap year overseas or simply ‘moving out’, the bigger picture is in focus, if not a favoured future.
Of greater consternation is the more immediate challenge: Schoolies. “How can I make sure he/she is safe?” and “What if this happens or that goes wrong?” are common conversation starters.
My response is usually along the lines that restrictions or rules at this stage are not going to be effective. Goodness knows, schools have been teaching creativity and innovation for years. Anything you can do, they can do better.
My considered and genuinely caring advice is that the values you as parents have taught them over the years around the dinner table (don’t tell me you don’t have family meals together…), on family holidays or simply as they learn about the big wide world each and every day and seek your guidance and advice, some more often than others, will serve them as you wish it to do.
Schools have a role to play. We know that. But there is a great deal of current research which tells us that parents are even more important in the development of character traits that are adopted by their children.
A 2018 survey conducted by the Centre for Innovation, Research, Creativity and Leadership in Education (CIRCLE) found that the three greatest influences on the development of a younger person’s character are parents, social media and current society.
Apart from being a reality check that schools are not as important as one might want to believe in this space, especially as some schools devote significant financial and human resources to provide programs focussed on character development, it is a reminder of the importance of values-based parenting…from a young age.
The way parents drive when their children are in the car; the way we as adults speak to others in earshot of our children; our willingness to obey rules and laws that we run up against on a daily basis; the way we treat others in our circle of friends – these will all contribute to the values that are held dear by our offspring, and the character they develop as they move through adolescence into adulthood.
We know our Graduates will be tested at Schoolies. No doubt they already have in all manner of contexts and situations. But as parents, we have to be confident that our actions and behaviours as mum and dad and the life lessons we impart to our children through discussion and experience will come to the fore as they venture forth.
That said, some last-minute advice never hurts!
Stuart Meade| Principal
Matthew Flinders Anglican College