It has always fascinated me, as a child, as an adult, and as a parent, that when you’re young you can’t wait to grow up and when you’re all grown up there are moments when you wish for nothing more than the innocence and freedom of youth.
And so it is with me and my (little) girls. They are growing up all too fast for my liking, whilst I, at least on the inside, see myself as a teenager still pretending to be a grown-up.
To be a parent is a gift that comes with a unique set of challenges and no instruction manual. Every child is different and your response as a parent is unique too. As a parent, you are a product of your own experiences, your worst fears, your greatest hopes, the promises you made to your parents, the frustrations you experienced as a teenager, the pressure you feel to be the parent that you promised yourself you will be, the weight of expectations you feel and the difficulty of decoupling those that you value from those that are just externally imposed.
What is certain is the overwhelming responsibility we all feel as parents to do the very best for our children, to protect and guide them into a happy and fulfilled adulthood. This simple ambition can seem hugely challenging when set against the backdrop of the world that our teenagers live in and the fact that they are chemically designed to question, to doubt themselves, to take risks and to seek the approval of their peers. And so they make mistakes and our job as a community is to guide them when this happens and to help ensure that within the context of the prevailing forces on them, that they cannot verbalise or yet control, we get through deep enough to plant the values of self-respect, kindness and due consideration of the feelings of others.
This has been a key focus of our discussions here at Rossall. The nurturing of young people navigating their way through a world full of challenges, temptations and conflicting messages is a key aspect of our pastoral care and we take it extremely seriously. Our children thrive in school when they are happy in themselves and feel safe. We endeavour to teach them that they have control over both of these aspects but that their choices also impact on the happiness and feelings of safety of others. Our recent RSE sessions in particular have focused not only on factual information but also on our emotional responses, our preconceptions, on the language we use and most importantly on the nature of consent. It has prompted interesting and important debates in other areas and it has served to inspire a number of our older students to want to share their experiences and to educate in areas that they feel passionately about. This organic evolution of pupil voice is heartwarming and inspiring and we know that values and messages conveyed by peers can often have a much more significant impact than the same thing said by adults.
So whilst I grapple with the bittersweet reality of watching my girls grow, I draw great strength from the fact that we live in a society that now, more than ever before, shines a spotlight on and challenges behaviour that in any way seeks to hurt or humiliate and teaches the skills and the language necessary to empower. We cannot stop or prevent the passage of time, the need for exploration, the risks our children will take, but what we can do as a school and as a community is to ensure that a rhetoric of love, kindness and respect transcends and permeates all.
Ms Dina Porovic
Senior Deputy Head