As you may have seen in this Sunday’s Mail on Sunday – (which led to a follow up commentary in Melanie Phillips’ column in Monday’s Daily Mail, and interviews on Radio 5 Live Breakfast and BBC Radio London’s Vanessa Show on Monday, as well as an article in today’s Daily Mirror) – I have written a book based on my experiences as a Head of girls’ schools for the past 12+ years. I decided to call it ‘Decoding Your 21st Century Daughter’, as I have been struck most over the past decade by the significant differences that exist between the world in which our teenagers live now, and the world inhabited by their parents. Parenting has always been challenging – no-one is ever really prepared for parenthood! – but it has been brought home to me on innumerable occasions just how challenging the process is at this moment in our history. Never before has it been so hard, nor have the stakes been so high. If we don’t get it right with our teenagers, we will not solve the massive issues facing the world at this present time.
And it is especially hard for girls. Teenage girls today are bombarded with often conflicting messages about what they should do, how they should behave, and what is expected of them. They are part of an evolving social history, as our drive towards greater fairness and gender equality continues to unfold, but they are, too, just trying to be ‘them’, to find out who they are, and what they want to be, and we should never underestimate what is involved in this process.
Given this backdrop – and given my role in education, during which I have seen and helped guide the development of thousands of young people, particularly girls – I wanted to share the wisdom I have accumulated, which I share with parents at my school at every opportunity. It is important that we listen to others and learn from others; how else does the human race move on in its understanding? I wanted too to give some practical solutions, and to offer reassurance and guidance. Teenage years are such turbulent years that they can take even seasoned parents by surprise, let alone parents who are experiencing this for the first time.
I wrote most of the book over Christmas, and have been revising it since in the odd moments I get in between all the other glorious happenings of my life. The process was a demanding one, but a satisfying one; now, the future of the book lies in the hands of publishers. Watch this space!