Letter from Elisabeth d’Ornano

The Adolescence´s Quest

January 2012

I believe being an educator to help form the person is one of the nobliest works, and one that provides our society with most services. Let us push together an education that is not based on the fright to failure, but on the enthusiasm to learn, on the complementation and the solidarity, where so many parents, as well as teachers, value the importance of their role in education and work together.

A teenager´s emotional body is mature to start living a new stage more autonomously. Maturity also involves huge physical, psychological and hormonal changes, as well as those linked to see the world with new eyes. All these developments make this stage a difficult one for the teenager and even more so with ADHD, owing to their impulsivity, a possible lack of confidence and a greater difficulty in perceiving where the limits are.

These reasons are why it is important for the child to understand how this stage is going to condition his emotions, his relationships with his friends, his parents and with the exterior world, all with the aim to continue developing adequately his personality in a balanced manner. It is a complicated stage for the child where we should try and help him have a balance between his studies, which are tougher as time passes, and his family, as well as the increasing social life. It is difficult for them to attain this equilibrium. Sometimes it´s excessive to feel the need to be talking about schoolwork because it might take over constructive family life. It is a real nightmare for the parents and we see they ask for help to handle it. As they get older, that help that practically all children with ADHD need in their infancy to carry out their homework, becomes harder for the teenagers as they do not let themselves be helped and by parents themselves who may not have sufficient knowledge on the matter, may be tired and amongst other things, by the battle in other areas of the child´s life… We know that it is a very difficult task for them to concentrate and therefore do their homework without help, and not everyone has the possibility to have the help of a tutor at home. Upon the child´s difficulty to concentrate and his lack of organization, the child has the danger to get into a situation of conflict with his parents leading to look for consolation outside the home and leaving aside his studies because the situation becomes unliveable. Any child or teenager needs time at home and the need to stimulate his brain through activities such as sports, arts or music to reach a global development: physically, emotionally and mentally. Through my own children, I see that sports help them a lot to establish healthy relationships with other kids, enjoying a contact with nature, enabling them to overcome themselves and at the same time, demanding a discipline that is necessary in this stage.

As Howard Gardner, Harvard Professor and awarded with Asturia´s Nobel Prize, said, “Do you want to strengthen your child´s intelligence? Find out his passions.” ….. but to this, I add that he needs some time leftover to develop it.

Even though the adolescence stage is very difficult and requires a lot of patience (my two adolescent kids sometime drive me crazy), all boys and girls, as well as adults, regardless need a treatment based on love. Let us not talk to them unidirectionally, let us talk to them establishing a dialog where they can give their opinion, and in situations of conflicts, let us guide them so that they can find their own solution. Let us educate with the example, providing them courtesy and respect in order to harvest the same in return, they will understand and approve it. Let us encourage the most creative part of the person, that I believe is of equal importance as to the rational part, and which in many cases permits the child to find self-esteem and relax the physical and emotional strain that implies assuming his difficulties and managing to stay afloat within the system. A blocked child will not be able to learn.

Experts on this matter say that during moments of crisis and stress, the conscious respiration is a tool which enables to see where the tension is within the body, visualising the causing emotion when one questions oneself, “What is it that is manipulating me, anger, happiness?” One should not block emotions, as if they are repressed, they stagnate and they can become pathologic. The child with ADHD is going to suffer more emotionally due to his difficulty to fit into the system. He will feel rejected and he will be more prone to be rebellious and aggressive if he does not learn how to control his emotions. It is advisable to encourage emotions that generate wellbeing and enables one to fulfil a chore.

Emotional education should be taught from school, though to be able to transmit it, firstly the exercise should be carried out on oneself. This way they will be able to help the children identify which are the emotions, so much the positive ones as the negatives ones which condition our lives, analyse them and learn slowly, slowly how to guide them without repressing them, nor hurt oneself and others. Let us speak naturally about emotions and let us have the children understand that the emotions manage and handle our daily lives, getting to condition our behaviour. Let us develop an interior and exterior order enhancing self-discipline.

Let us adults think about the atmosphere and the setting we create, and try and give the best of us, while also looking after ourselves, taking care and managing our own emotions in order to be in condition to transmit motivation and willingness to learn.

Trying to incite the motivation to learn in children is a quest on its own. We should try to understand the child so that he may find his truthful way and may do what he really enjoys and does well. All child does something well. Try to understand the child in a global view, valuing the different intelligences, not only the academic one, in order to get to know him beyond the subject you teach and therefore be able to appreciate his potential. The founder of Mac, Steve Jobs, explained that he owes a lot of his merit to his parents, who saw he was special regardless his ADHD symptoms. He was also thankful to a teacher who had known how to value his intelligence and understand his way of functioning, strengthening what he was. It is normal for one to fall down, Steve Jobs himself said that he dropped out of university, nevertheless, he carried out a calligraphy course that he was interested in, which he later on applied to the calligraphy in the Mac. In this course he got a taste of how motivating it is to be passionate. He was able to boost his brilliance and creativity that drove him towards being a visionary.

Although the path is atypical and it can become painful, it is important for one to get up again and continue forward. The child will see himself capable to assume these quests if those who surround him reflect his capacity, regardless the difficulties he may have. When you value the child´s strengths, you are showing him to value himself and want to advance in life, reaching for the opportunities that arise.

Humanity is in constant evolution and childhood nowadays is not the same as past generations, being implicit that the education also has to adapt itself to today´s world. We are being called to be more inquisitive, so much in the art of education as well as in the art of being people. The work market which these children will live through will have also changed, more and more there is an increase in demand for creative people, inventors, with a global vision, people who know how to listen to their intuition and with the goodwill to innovate. I believe all this is asking us to think about what we want for the youth and which are the real parameters for happiness that we want to instil. After all, they are the earth´s seeds and the future´s harvest. Let us try to apply life´s teachings with a human strategy to learn how to live, because feeling alive, is feeling capable and with desire to participate in the creation of our future, a better future.

Elisabeth d´Ornano

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