The right ‘attitude’ for high schoolers

Back, L-R: Presenter Christian Gallen, with Year 10 students Ella Schischka, Aleesha Thompson, and Renee Purves. Front, L-R: Year 10 students Maddi Presley, Brooke Kelliher, Aimee Cornhill, and The Parenting Place relationships coordinator Lex Mawson.

Talking to 400 or so high school students at a time might sound like a nightmare for some people, but for Christian Gallen it's, quite literally, all in a day's work.

This week the Parenting Place are taking their ‘Attitude' programme into several Western Bay of Plenty schools, with Christian presenting.

Yesterday, he was at Otumoetai College, talking to each year group about a different topic. For the Year 10s, it was ‘Hard Wired' – a discussion on drugs and alcohol.

In this instance, the focus is on why people might indulge in drugs and alcohol, and what alternatives are available to dealing with personal problems.

“It's all about helping students find the right support,” says Christian. “We try to be the signpost at the top of the cliff, rather than the ambulance at the bottom.”

He says he tries to be relatable, and not boring – the latter being the fastest way to turn off a crowd of teenagers.

“We try to tickle people in the ribs, so we can stab them in the heart,” he laughs. In other words, he tells a lot of jokes, but brings out the important message too.

Some of the girls who stayed behind afterwards agree.

“The funnier it is, the more you pay attention,” they say. “If it's boring, you kind of zone out.”

Reassuringly, they say the most important thing they'll be taking away from the talk is ‘drugs are bad'. Asked if they can talk to their parents about these sort of things, all of them say ‘yes'. If not, they know there are always counsellors, teachers, or – as one girl notes – the bus driver.

The Attitude programme provides presentations and resources to high schools and intermediate schools. It encourages mental and emotional resilience, and gives young people strategies for solving problems, handling stress, building resilience and negotiating relationships.

The Parenting Place relationships coordinator Lex Mawson says other topics covered include choices, mental health, friendships, sex, relationships, use of technology, and families.

“It's a really cool presentation that is up-to-the-minute, funny, informative, research-based, and backed up with vibrant visuals. The presenters use humour and honesty along with the best mentoring principles to engage and inspire young people to think about and plan for their future.”

Funding from the Wright Family Foundation has also allowed the programme to extend its reach.

“It's making a huge difference in allowing us the staff power to provide presentations and resources,” says Lex.

“When I approach schools about our programmes, they are always really keen but money is often a huge barrier. This funding definitely opens doors for more schools to access our programmes – if the programme is funded, it becomes a no-brainer for them.”

Wright Family Foundation founder and CEO Chloe Wright agrees.

“The Parenting Place provides programmes which share knowledge and education that can make a real difference in the life of children and families. We want to provide an opportunity which means people who would be great candidates for these programmes aren't missing out just because the budget can't stretch.

“The Wright Family Foundation is dedicated to making a positive difference through education. It's about growing the good, which is just what The Parenting Place is trying to achieve.”


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