Old friends, new friends and weekend curfews...
Written by Sue Goff on 21/05/2012
Q. My daughter went to a new, academic school, for sixth form (her choice). Her friends went to the local 6th form college. She works quite hard but spends Fri and Sat evenings with her old friends who hang out at each others’ houses and have no curfews. We have tried to agree reasonable deadlines, but she says she’s always the first to have to leave and its embarrassing. She’s afraid of losing her old friends as she’s still finding her feet in her new school. She’s good about keeping us informed as to where she is and with whom, doesn’t smoke, or drink much, but we feel that coming home at 1am or 2am in term-time (later in the hols) is too late for a 16 year old, especially with AS’s looming. These friends do not work hard and I have tried to speak with their parents who just shrug. She is making friends with lovely students at her new school, but this takes time, and they are physically further away. She says the only way she can cope with the stresses of exams and her new school is by having the weekend gatherings to look forward to. I understand, but every weekend results in a furious row as I think 11.30/midnight is late enough, and I am at my wit’s end. I feel these old friends are a bad influence and discouraging her from working. She refuses to agree to any set rules as ‘every weekend is different and it depends on what crops up’.
A. I can understand your concern for your daughter – she is managing a period of significant change in her life which will inevitably knock her self esteem and cause her to worry about her friends and social groups. Starting at a new school is never easy – whether at 11 or 16 – but it sounds as if the change of school is working out well, so that is good, and ultimately she is clearly in the right place. Have you had contact with her new school to see how she is getting on? It might be an idea to contact the Head of VI form – subtly, without necessarily telling her, maybe by email – to find out what sort of level she is achieving in her work and whether they feel that she is on track and doing enough work. If the answer is “yes” then you can feel encouraged, if it is “no” then you can enlist their help in asking them to talk to her about this and adding some weight to the discussion.
Another way to try and “wean her off” her former friends – if you are worried that they are having a bad influence on her – is to try and find more ways for her to integrate into her new school and their activities. It may be that there are things going on at the weekend – or not – but if she does get involved in other activities then she might get to know the others better socially and this might lead her to seeing them at weekends more. VI Form is a time when there are a lot of activities to choose from : Duke of Edinburgh Award, Community Service projects, Model United Nations conferences, Public speaking or debating competitions, charity projects – so have a look at her school’s website and see what might appeal to her interests. It is good that she is making friends with students at her new school but, as you say, it does take time. Encourage her also to invite her new friends to your house or to plan something with them – it sounds as if she is a “follower” with the old crowd of friends, fitting in with “what crops up” – maybe she is just doing this out of habit and because there is no other alternative (other than staying at home).
The examinations are coming very soon so it would be totally reasonable to cut back her weekends out to one evening out of Friday or Saturday – and use the other for revision. Has she thought about what she might like to do next? Does she want to go to University? If so then you could get her to look at some University prospectuses – maybe plan some Open Day visits – to whet her appetite for the next step (and then reinforce the need for good AS grades to make it all happen). It is sad that her friends from her last school are acting this way – but they will be the losers in this, as they will have a rude awakening with their results in August! Try to avoid furious rows – not easy I know – by giving her the rules and telling her that you expect her to abide by them. Midnight is plenty late enough for her age, you are quite right, so stick to your principles. It is easier to explain the rationale behind these at a time other than when she is about to go out so pick your time carefully to explain what you are doing and why – then leave it at that.
Finally, it is a very stressful time, doing AS and A2 examinations, she is quite right, so continue to support her in any way you can – encourage her and remind her that she is a success to you, regardless of her examination results (although of course these are very important to her) – you love her unconditionally and are very proud of all she has achieved to date. That will go a long way – even if she does not admit it at the time!
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