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The Benefits of a Strong Parent-Adolescent Relationship

Scott Allenby

The boarding school of our parents’ generation saw students dropped off in September and picked up by their parents on move out day at the end of May. Times have changed, and so has research on the benefits of teenagers and their parents having appropriate boundaries. 

Proctor Academy Parents

As boarding school educators, we see real value in students learning to live and learn independently from their parents as they navigate roommate conflict, independence around meals, homework, laundry, and academic work. In fact, up until a few years ago we would kick off our new parent orientation with images and explanations of different “types” of parents - the helicopter parent, bulldozer parent, drone parent, etc. - in hopes of naming the inevitable challenges that we saw each year as parenting styles and teaching philosophies intersected. 

Our intent in identifying the potential challenges of the helicopter parent was rooted in our belief that over-parenting inhibited the development of independence core to boarding schools. New research shared in THIS ARTICLE challenges this stance to a degree as researchers have found a significant increase in the happiness of adolescents with regard to their relationship with their parents. The article notes, “Nine in 10 parents rate their relationships with their young adult children as good or excellent, and so do eight in 10 young adults, and this is consistent across income. Rather than feeling worried or disappointed about how things are going in their children’s lives, eight in 10 parents say they feel proud and hopeful.” 

Proctor Academy Parents

In a newscycle so often focused on how this generation of youth are struggling with mental health, substance, and overall well-being, it is refreshing to read a different narrative about the amazing young people we see walking around our campus each day. Yes, our students today may be more reliant on their parents for daily conversations, advice, and guidance, but is that a bad thing if parents are appropriately supporting their children? 

The article discusses the evolution in societal expectations of parents and children over the past fifty years, “When baby boomers were growing up, there was a belief, rooted in the American ideal of self-sufficiency, that children should be independent after age 18. But that was in some ways an aberration, social scientists said. Before then, and again now, it has been common for members of different generations to be more interdependent.” 

Proctor Academy Parents

Just as this interdependence among generations can be positive for young people, our interdependence with our Proctor parents is critical to the effective delivery of our mission. We seek to keep open dialogue with parents as advisors, teachers, coaches, and dorm parents, and we must, as an institution, do the same. We are partners in raising our students, and the success of our students is only possible when our work is in concert with the support and guidance of parents. If we can provide candid, regular updates with parents from our position as educators, share resources on the challenges adolescents face with our parents, and try to open the whole of the Proctor experience to our parents without compromising the growth of our students, we will ultimately help our students thrive. 

Proctor Academy Parents

Like any complex human relationship, our relationship with our students and parents will remain a work in progress. We will make mistakes, identify areas to do better, and, hopefully, share plenty of hugs with parents in mutual appreciation for the other as we see our interdependent work play out in the graduating of good, honest, kind humans. 

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