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Welcome Address

Paul Channon, Headmaster of The Ridge School and Chairman of SAHISA

A Cherokee elder was teaching his grandchildren about life. He said to them, "A fight is going on inside me...it is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One wolf represents fear, anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego. The other stands for joy, peace, love, hope, sharing, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, friendship, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. This same fight is going on inside you, and inside every other person, too." They thought about it for a minute and then one child asked his grandfather, "Which wolf will win?" The old Cherokee simply replied... "The one you feed."
It seems to me that adolescents typically face an intense battle between these two wolves, akin to the old image of having the good angel on one shoulder urging them on one way, and a bad angel on the other shoulder pushing another way. It’s a tough, tough period, and the idea of “An Adolescent Storm” is spot on. It’s an elemental time of energy and noise (not least door slamming), coupled with the risk of potential destruction to themselves and others.
But, like a storm, this period passes… whether there is residual damage or not, depends very much on how those in the immediate vicinity manage the process because it’s also a tough time on their inner lives, their parents, siblings and the school. Nature has a way of handling these things in the animal kingdom. I have just finished reading Lawrence Anthony’s delightful book “The Elephant Whisperer”: adolescent males are sent away to the equivalent of boarding school in the bush to learn how to manage themselves, guided by older males.
While earlier human society often found similar processes to follow, regrettably, it’s not so easy in the modern world. Increasingly, schools are having to guide parents in managing their children through this phase of their development. A book like this one is a must for schools and parents alike. I particularly like the encouragement to step back when there is an issue and ask: is this a parent, adolescent or school issue. Were every parent to do this, rather than leap in impulsively to the apparent rescue, what a difference it would make. Testing times would be seen as opportunities to problem solve, not a time to blame and ruin relationships in an attempt to find a quick fix.
Underpinned by Winnicott’s concept of “the good enough parent”, this is also a very affirming book. As parents of adolescents, too often we experience guilt, that we have been inadequate in our role. I love the straightforwardness of the authors’ aim as expressed in the introduction: “we believe the purpose of parenting is to help the child, now an adolescent, to develop into a responsible and well integrated adult for society. Thus if parents have greater insight into the process of healthy adolescent development they will understand, enjoy, or if necessary, adjust their parenting to achieve the aim.”
The case studies to illustrate and assist this goal are well written, compelling, and real. I recommend this book highly and wish Meg and Helen with it. I think it will be of tremendous benefit to schools, parents and adolescents alike in ensuring the right wolf is fed.

Author's Address

Meg Fargher 

Good Evening Everyone

Thank you all for being here.  Helen and I are honoured and humbled that you have taken the time to celebrate with us as we launch our book, The Adolescent Storm. 

If you want to reconnect with past colleagues, friends and family – the advice is obvious – write a book and then prevail upon their good nature to attend the launch!

Writing and publishing The Adolescent Storm would not have been possible without the help and support of many people and while we thank everyone present, particular thanks must go to Penguin. First to the CEO, Alison Lowry, for agreeing to publish our book in the first place and of course to her former publisher, Louise Grantham who encouraged our journey most warmly.  The Penguin staff has been most helpful. To Ellen, our publicist, who organized tonight as well as other publicity and who sent out invitations to the unsuspecting, to Catherine Murray our inordinately kind editor, Nicola  Rijsdik the efficient proof reader; Renee Naude who designed the cover, changed the title and put up with our idiosyncrasies with very good grace -thank you all so very much. 

To our ever-patient husbands Ken and Rob who supported us in this long process - we admit we owe you.  In fact Ken rescued the book from the nether regions of cyber space on more than one occasion and he put up with a few anti-technology-tantrums that may have made an adolescent-rant seem feeble by comparison.
A very special thank you must go to Paul Channon of the Ridge. Not only for offering to host this event at this remarkable school but also for his consistent decency and support.  It is no wonder he is a highly esteemed principal.  Paul and I have travelled some interesting journeys together, not least a wonderful experience at Columbia University in New York and the mark of the man has always been in his ability to communicate and his generosity of spirit.  Thank you for your support Paul –please accept a small gift as a token of our appreciation. 

We are also grateful to Paul’s secretary, Liz Wallis, who is consistently professional and accommodating.  Thanks for handling the additional burden created by us, Liz. 

We are also grateful to Julie Green, a well known and outstanding clinical psychologist who commented on the book and to whom we are indebted for checking the veracity of our theory. Jenny Ketley supported us a great deal and manages the seminars for us – thank you for all you do for us, Jenny.

Paul’s generosity is far reaching he also agreed to read the draft version  of The Adolescent Storm, before it even had a real title,  and he gave both a meaningful endorsement and also some excellent advice.  Thank you.  Besides Julie Green and Paul, a number of other people were also coerced into reading the book in its draft form.  We owe our gratitude to:

  • Lauren an Adrian Gore, who amongst notable business successes are a leading parenting couple in the community;
  • The profoundly wise and esteemed, Professor Graham Hall who is a mentor and a man who has made a huge impact on education in this country;
  • Dr Peta Lynn Jearey a well known and excellent specialist family practioner knowledgeable in may areas including the hills and dales of the adolescent journey;
  • Alessandra Newton and Liz Dooley from the renowned and busy Family Life Centre;
  • Professor Gavin Ivey erstwhile co-ordinator of the PhD Psychology Programme at Wits University
  • And notably the highly respected, erudite and  wise Judge Edwin Cameron from the Constitutional Court. 

All of these people are extremely busy making significant contributions in their various fields of concern and yet they made the time and had the graciousness to read and endorse our book – we are humbled by their support.

Unfortunately the renowned futurist, strategist and author, Dr Graeme Codrington, who wrote the Foreword and who gave us invaluable advice is not here tonight.  In his absence I would like to thank him for his significant contribution to our book.

And then of course to all the parents and adolescents with whom we have had and do have the privilege to work – thank you for all you have taught us and for the enrichment you have brought to our lives.  What a privilege to be associated with every one of you. One parenting couple I would particularly like to mention is Bruce and Hilary Watt who gave me permission to write, unfettered, about their very precious and beautiful daughter so that others may take solace from their journey. Thank you for your generosity that knows no bounds and I know you have helped many people in their sadness. You have allowed Kim to continue to be the angel that she is now and was then.

Let me move on to telling you a little about the book.   Why this book?
The book was borne out of many hours of Helen and me repeating ourselves to parents when we co-counselled or to whom we had co-listened.  While detractors may accuse us of being singularly unimaginative or edging towards early senility in these sessions; we realised that similar parenting issues were occurring often at common times in the year.  At times we felt that parents were getting overwrought about pretty typical behaviour and were diagnosing either major personality disorders, trypanosomiasis or sleeping sickness in their teenagers when in fact diagnosis was  more simple - adolescence.  At about the same time Professor Nick Binedell from GIBS was postulating the idea that all parents be put through a course on how to parent strategically before their children could enter high school.  These thoughts together with the realisation that while there are many books guiding parents through some of the rather sensational aberrations of adolescence, there are few books dealing with the parent or carer who was trying hard to make sense of the normal but challenging time of adolescence – a time which can be complicated by the very vicissitudes of life.  The Adolescent Storm is a book about healthy adolescents on their journey to adulthood and how as parents and teachers we can mitigate some of the negative deviations from that journey by reflecting on what the behaviour of both the adolescent and the parent really means. The case studies in the book represent real cases that occur frequently. For every one case in the book there are another ten like it sitting in our stash of case studies.  Since the case studies are not isolated incidents we believe their very ordinariness is what makes the book valuable. It is tempting to write about the bizarre and sensational, the frightening and the amusing but that is not necessarily useful since the majority of adolescents, and their parents for that matter, are far from bizarre or fantastical; even if the casual observer thinks differently.

Aside from technological and medical advances many of the  issues around adolescence in the 21st century are probably as old as the proverbial hills - Aristotle said, the youth are “heated by nature as drunken men by wine,” while Socrates, characterized adolescence as a time when the youth is inclined “to contradict their parents and tyrannize their teachers.”  Just when we thought we were clever in choosing weather as our central image to link the book together we realized that the philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau had made the connection long before us:  “The roaring of the waves [which]precede the tempest so the murmur of rising passions announce[s] the tumultuous change.  “Keep your hand upon the helm”, he advised parents “or all is lost.”  And the Times headline of a week ago read, “Teens in a bad way- Parents at fault” not a far cry from that of previous centuries.

In The Adolescent Storm, like Rousseau, we exhort parents to keep a hand on the helm and to reflect on the act of parenting.   The book also postulates the Winnicottian theory that “good enough” parenting may be more effective than parenting that is “too good.”  Whatever view one holds, there can be no denying that what one does as a parent does matter; how an adolescent is treated and valued as a thinking person matters and the same holds true for schools.   How we parent, we would argue, is fundamental to the advancement of the next generation.  While the book is accessible and simple the implications of good parenting are far-reaching – good parenting builds the next generation while poor parenting has the potential to destroy.

With the recent discovery of Australopithecus Sediba, theories of evolution are certainly at the forefront of many minds.  Before you think I am going to suggest adolescent behaviour sheds some light on Neanderthal man or Australopithecines, I want to postulate that the evolution of thinking is in fact a parenting issue. If we can be reflective parents, thinking about our actions, we will be better parents than the generation before and if we can model good parenting, and if schools and parents and carers create platforms for better thinking then human kind’s thinking evolves and societies will have greater potential to flourish – for as adults that is our task – to help young people to flourish; to make the world better than it was before.  It is in that flourishing that the human race will truly evolve into being more human and more humane.  The task is a daunting one.  The consideration in this country of the number of homes where there are no parents at all is alarming – we would then all do well to protect and guide, mentor and love and help all the young people who come along our paths be they our own children, the children of our peers or the children we teach– it is an adult task to help them on their journey, not only so that they may thrive but also so that the very structure of that which makes us human can survive. As adults our task is not altruistic; our task is in fact an imperative. The storm of adolescence is but one storm we have to navigate and we are compelled to keep our hand upon the helm or else “all is lost.”

Thank you.



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The Adolescent Storm

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