Last month, the final instalment of Conversations @ SJI International, with the focus topic “Talking to teens about trending issues”, concluded with over 80 parents participating both online and in person. Ms Michelle Koay, our High School Counsellor and parent coach, facilitated the sessions.
Read the following reflection from Ms Koay.
We started the session by reviewing some trending issues teens may be interested in. Parents were reminded that since teens can access the internet and social media, they will likely find a lot of information from various online platforms. First, we looked at mental health as there is greater awareness about mental health conditions. Some teens discuss the concepts and label one another loosely and freely, and it may not be the most helpful. Furthermore, some celebrities and social media influencers may also discuss these openly. Parents can converse with teens to understand their perspectives and concerns to guide them towards making informed decisions and choices about what they would like to do with their peers.
Second, environment and sustainability are hot topics in schools and the wider community. The students are exposed to this topic, especially in Geography, as well as service projects in which they may be engaged. Some students may even try to influence family members to change their habits or choose to go vegetarian to reduce their carbon footprint. Third, racism and discrimination are things that teens may discuss. There is heightened awareness of their privilege, and they may call out their peers who make comments or jokes that may be racist or discriminatory. The conversations are likely to revolve around the rights and equality of groups that may be marginalised in certain settings. Finally, teens may debate our justice system about caning, the death penalty and the type of laws we have in Singapore.
We recognised that it is important to keep an open mind and remember to engage in a conversation with our teens instead of making it a debate to prove that we are right and our teens are wrong. We are urged to listen to what our teens think about various issues and ask them to elaborate and share more. If there are polarised views, you can establish common ground by hearing other perspectives and finding similarities, such as shared values, despite the stark differences. It is important to model conversation skills by staying present by acknowledging points via non-verbal cues or verbal encouragement, maintaining eye contact and not being distracted by our digital devices.
Finally, we discussed youth activism and how teens use social media to share their views and opinions. Even though youth may be keen to advocate for a particular cause, they must consider how others may respond so that they do not alienate others and communicate safely and respectfully.
- High School