At a recent meeting of university presidents, someone asked the group, “What can high schools do to improve the chances of their students succeeding in university?” The presidents all agreed on two issues: resiliency and alcohol.
On resiliency: Some have argued that, because of the new technologies, adolescents are “tethered” to their parents in ways that would have been unimaginable a generation ago. The result is that it’s not unusual for even grade 12 students to have their parents run interference for them and deal with issues, when they should actually be facing the music or the dean on their own.
Parents may feel that they are standing up for or defending or advocating for their sons, but if they step in every time a boy has a difficulty, they may be inadvertently depriving their sons of the “opportunity” to learn how to deal directly with adversity; this buffers boys from the consequences of their actions, and stunts the development of their grit muscles. (If you are interested in this topic, you might enjoy Wendy Mogel’s book, “The Blessings of a Skinned Knee: Using Jewish Teachings to Raise Self-Reliant Children.”)
On alcohol: There are at least two ways of thinking about this issue that are diametrically opposed to one another. The “minimize risk” or “safe party” approach follows the European model, which encourages adolescents to make their own choices at an early age. This normalizes alcohol use, de-glamorizes drunkenness, and, the argument goes, minimizes the risk of binge drinking.
Those who take a more absolutist approach argue that, the longer an adolescent delays using alcohol, the less likely he is to have a problem with it later in life. Duke University researchers have discovered that, because the liver and pancreas are among the slowest organs to mature, for every year an adolescent delays experimenting with alcohol, the chances of his developing a dependency on it drop by roughly 5%.
If you have any wisdom on how we can do a better job of promoting resiliency and/or how we can help our boys make good choices on alcohol, please send them my way.