Today, we had our final Senior Camper talks of the summer.
The Senior Camper program is our nationally recognized high school leadership program. Campers attend following their 9th, 10thand 11thgrade years.
In the program, we strive to foster skills that will prepare them for the world of college and beyond. We focus on a wide array of skills and dispositions, including communication skills, leadership techniques, resilience, adaptability and work ethic.
We talk about the importance of sleep, controlling the use of technology (and not being controlled by it), stress management, cultivating optimism and the lies of masculinity/femininity.
At the end of the three year program, the Senior Campers go on a 3-day retreat and write a personal mission statement. I hope to say more on that later, but I can assure you that it is a highpoint for all of us fortunate enough to watch these young men and women mature into true adults.
Part of the program is bi-weekly “Baskin Talks”. Each age group comes into the house 2 times each week and we tackle a topic that we hope will be useful to them.
During our final session with the second year Senior Campers (those between 10thand 11thgrade), we talked about managing parental relationships.
The high school years are often fraught with tension and stress. Parents worry about their teens’ judgment and their academics. They have to make peace with the idea of their children driving. [Note: I have this theory that we cannot clearly assess the age of our own children and that we see them as the weighted average of our most available memories. For example, we spend a lot of time with them when they are 17, but we cannot completely forget some of the acts of bad judgment from when they were 14 or 12. As a result, when we look at them, they seem younger than they are. And now they are driving?!?!]
Meanwhile, the students are worried about grades, social lives and managing the vagaries of social media.
This mutual stress can make for some tense moments. Too many such moments can fray familial relationships.
Susie Ma’am and I strive to be “partners in the parenting process”. This role is very important in the first years of camp, but I think we might be the most helpful during the teen years.
Here is one of the reasons why. [Spoiler alert.] Teens do not think their parents are cool. Our children certainly did not think we were cool when they were teens. But your kids DO think that people at camp are cool. So when they least want to listen to their parents, they still listen to us.
So our discussion today was about dealing with parental challenges. Please know that all conversations were anonymous. We asked the teens to fill out surveys without any names on them. We then identified areas of conflict (curfew, mobile phone usage, study habits) and then discussed how to reduce the conflict.
Our main advice revolves around several basic ideas:
1. Their parents love them, so they will worry.
2. Their worries have validity. We gave the example of our children and late night driving. We live 12 miles outside of Marble Falls, so most of the drive from the town to camp is on 70MPH highways. These highways are relatively safe at 9PM, but get more dangerous around midnight (as other drivers are potentially impaired). We knew our kiddos were getting more mature when they stopped saying that we were silly about curfews and they instead discussed ways to mitigate this risk.
3. Parents need to believe that their teens have maturity and judgment before they let go. If the teen acts like a child (angry, petulant, reactively rebellious), they should expect to be treated like a child.
4. If, however, teens can show evidence that they are thinking like adults, parents will begin to treat them like an adult.
They were very thoughtful and mature during our conversation. I suspect that they will approach future conversations at home with grace and maturity.
I know Susie Ma’am and I have appreciated the other adults in the lives of our now-adult children. If we can serve such a role with our families, we consider ourselves truly blessed.
PS I know the photo has nothing to do with the blog, but this activity (hydro-gliding) is an activity that only the oldest Senior Campers get to do. This seemed like a good time to include the photo.