I remembered when I came across 16 students in a class that had either slit their wrists or entertain suicidal thoughts.  I still remembered the day I spoke to them individually. Fear, guilt and anger were displayed in their eyes. It took a lot of probing before they opened up on their fears and troubles.

Parents, do you know out of the 16 students that I interviewed –

12 of them were due to issues from home?

When students enter secondary schools, their hormones and self-identify often conflict with one another. This is the trickiest part – nobody seem to know what happen. Parents often complain about the sudden change in their children.

“My son used to be the sweetest boy in primary school. Now he has changed so much I don’t even recognise him anymore. He smokes, he drinks, he is vulgar…..”

“I tried all sorts of ways to talk to her. I kept asking her what’s going on or what’s happening in her school. Yet, the more I ask the more she withdraws.”

“My son has beaten us up. I need you to protect us from him.”

“My daughter shamed our family online. She posted pictures of us and called us such vulgar words I cannot repeat them.”

These are true cases of parents’ confessions. I even came across decent students who will not hesitate to call their parents ‘bitches’ and ‘bastards’ online but behave such saints in schools.

Yet, why is this so?

When I spoke to parents of these children, I could often feel frustration, fear, negativity and anxiety in a big mix. Parents told their children not to get into ‘unnecessary trouble’, slapping their children whenever they feel angry, using harsh words such as “shame” or “stupid” or simply cursing them. When I pointed them out gently to them, parents often responded defensively before coming to terms with it. Sometime, it takes many months before things improve at home.

A simple chat with other educators reveal the same issue: Most parents just simply lessen their positive parenting when the child is in Secondary School. Somehow, there are lesser participants in parenting workshops and the likes as compared to primary and preschool. This doesn’t just happening in Singapore – it happens across the globe!

Many parents expect their children to be able to regulate themselves so much better when they are in Secondary School as they are much older now – thus, many parents tend to be more flippant with their words, tone, body language and such. Yet they forget, words hurt even more now than before now they are at this age.

Teenagehood is a huge step for those 12 YO turning into a full-fledged teen. While they want to strike out on their own, they are afraid to do so. Peers provide that cushion for them and provides the seemingly ‘safe haven’ to ‘try out dumb things together’.

Yet no matter what, your teenage child do not want to stray too far off from you –  they still need your words of encouragement and praise constantly to strike out.

You just need to remember and practice this principle consistently- that’s all.