Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Blackheads Revisited

Secondary school is a world unto itself.

Inhabited by creatures whose brains are being rewired to such an extent that they no longer resemble other human beings on the planet. Fizzing human bombs (© Danielle Dax) whose hormone levels explode like weapons grade plutonium within the space of a few months and then pulse with a seedy half life that lasts for the next 30 years (if they’re lucky).

I remember it as a callous no-man’s land that delighted in alienating the weak or the different or (rarest of all) those who retained a modicum of human compassion. I felt alone and “outside” for most of my secondary school career. Hey. Why pull the punch? I felt dis-included for ALL of my secondary school career.

It could not be changed. It had to be borne. It had to be endured. And it was a horrifically lonely journey.

My eldest boy has suddenly found himself immersed in that same world. Curriculums might change. Teaching methods might be revolutionized. But the world of the geeky teenager remains essentially the same. The rites of passage that you largely walk alone.

He doesn’t make friends easily. He has trouble “getting” other people. He doesn’t connect well. He swings from ultra negative to overpowering positive without touching the middle ground in an instant; switches from totally controlling teen-god one minute to uber-victim the next who is unable to take responsibility for anyone or anything and thus finds himself always hopelessly disempowered.

Karen and I are at a loss as to how to help him beyond giving advice, helpful practical hints and trying to keep home life as secure as possible.

Because the simple truth is, unless you are one of the lucky ones, secondary school life starts off being diabolically damaging and only gets marginally better with each passing year. End of story.

How do you deal with the sniping comments of others? How do you deal with the bullying tactics of the playground – both overt and secretly snide? How do you deal with people who you once thought of as friends but now decide to ostracise you and leave you out in the cold at every opportunity?

What possible advice can I give to an 11 year old to combat all these issues when they are problems that, 28 years after leaving secondary school and now in full time employment, I still come up against and struggle with every week if not every day?

Because the sad fact is, although Secondary school is a world unto itself that isn’t meant to last forever, for some people (both good and ill), it bloody does.


23 comments:

vegemitevix said...

My advice? Get him into something outside of school that he loves. Really, really loves. So much he lives for it. It doesn't matter if it's tiddlywinks club, or soccer, or marching band club. I put my Son (now 18) into Air Training Cadets when we arrived here and he was 15. He didn't make any friends at school, at all for the entire two years he was there. But boy did he live for ATC, and going away on camps and learning how to fly a glider and a plane. It reminded him that there was a group of people out there who did 'get' him, even if school was bloody miserable. And it was for him, just as it was for his mum. ;-p

Steve said...

Vix: Yup, we've already put that too him but he's not really a "club" kind of boy... though we haven't given up on the idea yet. Just need to find the right niche.

Wanderlust said...

I don't have any advice for you Steve, not having crossed that particular threshold yet as a parent. I will admit, though, it makes me very nervous. I think, ultimately, the best thing we can do for our kids is to work on making ourselves resilient and empowered. We can lecture our children all we want, but in the end they simply absorb what we've modeled to them.

Kelloggs Ville said...

I have recently done a 5 evenings course on Parenting teens. It was a very positive experience and whilst not necessarily giving immediate practical answers like 'if they are struggling with this then do that', it was packed to the gills with how we as parents can respond and support to the difficult emotions, situatins and pressures they are starting to experience. Learning how to become a counsellor not a controller. I thoroughly recommend it. I've a blog post written and will be published shortly.

Steve said...

Wanderlust: it's making Karen and I nervous too - we both had issues when at school. Not sure if that makes us better placed to help or not!

Kelloggs Ville: I shall definitely keep an eye out for that one. Thank you.

Being Me said...

It's enough to bring me to my knees, the thought that my child has a high school career ahead of her that is anything similar to mine. I don't know, Steve! It seems to be a necessary evil but why must it be? The betrayals and isolation of secondary school are complete torture, I feel for you and I feel for your boy. I think Vix's suggestion is brilliant and I'm sure you'll get even more sound advice from your astute and loyal friends and readers.

Steve said...

Being Me: I do often wonder to myself whether school is really the best way for modelling young people into healthy, well adjusted adults... sadly it seems to be about the only way.

libby said...

I do feel for you all.....there is no magic wand for the majority of kids who are not the cool/confident kind...my son gave us just the same kind of concerns at that time...but vegemitevix is right, and I'm sure K's post will be useful...but the biggest thing of all? just be there, listen, accept that they might struggle sometimes and offer all the support you can in whatever way you can while showing them that there are good people and good times out there.....things do get better....

Trish @ Mums Gone To... said...

I worried how my lad, a quiet only-child who began secondary school with a stammer, would cope and yet he seems to have coped admirably. I've tried to take a step back to analyse whether there was something he did or we did to keep things happy for him, and I'm not sure I have an answer. He did get the bus to school from day one and therefore made friends with boys who lived close to us - I wonder whether this was an important factor?

Give it a few more weeks then maybe get some advice from the school.

Steve said...

Libby: I hope so. I really do. I know they settled down for me eventually but I was never really happy.

Trish: yes, it may come to that. At least schools have counselling systems in place these days... a recourse that was virtually unheard of in my day.

Gorilla Bananas said...

Well, maybe he needs to realise that most of the 'cool' kids he'll encounter are a bunch of tedious shits. If he can avoid becoming one of them, he will have achieved something worthwhile.

John Gray said...

ah my secondary school days were awful!
but I survived....
we all generally do!
best wishes for your son matey

Steve said...

Gorilla Bananas: best advice so far. Thank you.

John: we do. But at the time it seems so unsurmountable.

Marginalia said...

I'd hire a couple of hoods to escort him to school, stage manage a drugs raid on his school locker and offer to pay off his form teacher's mortgage if he sees your son right.

That should smooth his path thro' his school career.

Vicky said...

I hated my first few months of high school but once I made some friends it became a lot easier and yep I still have a couple of those friends today.
And Steve you never know, he may just pick a club activity all on his own once he has settled in.
Best wishes to the whole family.

the fly in the web said...

And what are the staff doing to sort this out? Bugger all, I expect.

In my day staff were omnipresent and quite ready to exercise their authority...which was not just to teach their subject but to instill discipline and manners in those who'd missed the indoctrination in junior school.

I don't relate to any of the comments...school days were far from being the best days of my life but staff would not have allowed these problems to exist.

I see your problem, though...I wasn't clubbable either and would have distinctly resented being put into some club just to get me to socialise.

Show him how to be a happy loner.


Steve said...

Marginalia: I can tell that you're a successful product of the UK school system.

Vicky: we're not without hope. All you need is one friend. Just one. After that life gets a whole lot easier.

The fly in the web: a happy loner. Hmm. It took me until my late twenties for me to be happy with that status. But I'll certainly try and point him in the right direction.

Rol said...

I wish I could offer any advice, but my head is stuck down a lavatory while the older boys are laughing.

Keith said...

The Fly has it right. Support thru the tough bits, and be reassured that the popular kids grown into dull adults because they never have to really learn who they are.

The odd balls, and loners and lost souls bloom into the real flowers of the garden.

Nota Bene said...

If you can take on board even half the things suggested above, your lad will become a shining star, and school troubles will quickly pass by...

Steve said...

Rol: give us your lunch money and we'll let you go.

Keith: yep. That's always been my belief (all I gotta do is live up to it).

Nota Bene: here's hoping...

The bike shed said...

An engagingly honest post. There is no answer beyond care and love. Schools have come a huge way since I was there, but you are right, the same issues remain

Steve said...

The Bike Shed: they are life issues, I guess, not just school.