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Three Words to Change a Life

Work with me here. I’m using a strange analogy. At first, it’ll make little sense. Eventually, the lightbulb will turn on – I hope. Growing up in the 80’s and 90’s, our social lives were akin to a cricket ball. We had a strong, core group of family and friends. It was solid yet giving – a cork like environment. Little could penetrate it. Our foundations were secure; almost rock solid.

Outside of our everyday interactions was a series of flexible, versatile, ‘stringy’ peers. Maybe they were in our class, on our sports team, our family friends. They aided our growth in maturity; opened our horizons, but didn’t explicitly shape us. They were linked to our weekly routines, but not integral.
On the far reaches of our everyday tasks, sat the outside circle. They formed a superficial shell around us, without ever determining who we really were. A part of our weeks, months and years but with little effect on our core values. They didn’t interfere with our families, our weekends, our evenings. Potentially, we caught a bus or train with them, or passed them in a corridor on our way to class. Our friendship networks and social lives were predictable, stable and hierarchical.

Conversely, life and peer interactions appears far more complicated for teenagers in 2017. Statistics show that many young people no longer grow up in ‘traditional’ households with Mum, Dad and 2.3 siblings. Their daily routines are nowhere near as simplistic. They have thousands of Facebook friends and Instagram followers, but may know less than a handful in depth. Our boys are now contactable 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They may feel in control, but are vulnerable to penetration from multiple sources. Their networks and possibilities spread far wider than Generation X, but are far more easily pierced. Consider them to be basketballs. Seemingly bigger, brighter and bouncier, but oh so easily deflated.

We are acutely aware as a College that despite their apparent ‘basketball’ bravado, our boys need care and nurturing. Although their tough, leathery exterior can appear to be resilient – even bulletproof – there is not always the deep seeded security and solidarity which once existed. As the boys grow bigger, and sometimes further away from the core family and friends, they need our understanding and support more than ever!

Tomorrow is R U OK? Day. It invites us to have conversation. To enquire about the well-being of all in our community. A call to action. I was delighted to see the Courier Mail provide extensive information on page 26 and 31 of Tuesday’s paper to alert all their readers to the day. I can strongly recommend the resources if you can track down a copy. Mental health is a major issue facing schools in the 21st Century. As with all things, the partnership and awareness that the home life brings, is essential to the holistic upbringing of a child. Start the conversation.
Three words may change a life.

Matt Warr, Assistant Dean of Formation
warrm@atc.qld.edu.au