August 30, 2017

Dear Flint Hill School Families,

We would be remiss if we did not start with taking a moment to keep all of the people of Houston, Texas in our thoughts and prayers as they continue to experience the fury and aftermath of tropical storm Harvey. We have more than 36 alumni who attend school, work or live in the Houston area. Many of us, myself included, have lived in that wonderful city and have family and dear friends there. Their struggles are ongoing but our caring reflection really can and will help.

We have now officially started the school year with orientations, field studies for parent conferences for some grades. Upper School classes begin tomorrow. The pace at school has quickly and dramatically returned to regular order. As you look ahead at the school calendar, you will see a full assortment of events and activities ahead. A number of these programs focus on our role as parents. In particular, helping us understand how to engage, help, guide and support the social-emotional development of our children. In fact, in September, I will lead three sessions of my fall Headmaster’s Parent Discussion Series. There will also be an event hosted by our outstanding Counseling Department in early October. The event will be a required for all Grade Nine parents and students. Please join us if you can for any or all of these events as appropriate. Below is more detail about what each program will entail.

Thursday, September 7 at 8:15 a.m.
Grades 9-12 Headmaster’s Parent Discussion Series
Upper School Campus Multipurpose Room

Teens can be challenging. Some students talk incessantly to their parents and share just about everything. Others, like my boys at that age, do not. Students are trying to carve out their personal space as young adults and are working to find their voice. Some may reject limits. Some will balk at conversation. Both are absolutely necessary in today’s world. For the children you still have at home, you need to know what they are thinking and they need to clearly hear your values and expectations on a whole host of topics. More than ever now is a time for caring but firm parenting, which is NOT an easy task.

Monday, September 11 at 8:15 a.m.
Grades JK-4 Headmaster’s Parent Discussion Series Grades
Lower and Middle School Campus Multipurpose Room

We marvel at young children when we watch them begin to engage in their educational journey fully. We may be amazed at their innocence, their excitement and their endless potential. But occasionally, we can also see them struggle with lost friendships or conflicts. They are just starting to build relationships, and such disappointments can be confusing and difficult for them. How can you help them? What factors will help them to understand what it means to fully forge a relationship?  How do they make friends and how do they keep friends?

Join me in this dialogue where we will consider some case studies, as well as our collective experiences as parents, both good and bad. Together we will help set a foundation for your amazing children at this critical age.

Wednesday, September 13 at 8:15 a.m.
Grades 5-8
Headmaster Parent Discussion Series

Lower and Middle School Campus Multipurpose Room

Children at this age go through an enormous transition physically, intellectually and emotionally. Early adolescence is an experience all unto itself. There is childlike innocence one minute, and a sudden worldliness the next. And a profound self-consciousness is often woven in there as well. All of this creates challenges for parents and children alike. I have always felt that early adolescence has children in a “perpetual state of potential disorganization.” It is a daunting age, but there is much you can do as parents to help engage them at home and to help them learn the traits and the skills that they are going to need to navigate through this terrain.

Monday, October 16 at 6:00 p.m.
Required Community of Concern Grade 9 program:  “Why is Teenage Mental Health Important?”

The Counseling Office has been hard at work over the years working with our young students who are juggling the responsibilities of family, school work, extracurricular activities, friendships, their digital footprints, and beginning to think about building their college resumes. Issues surrounding mental health for adolescents throughout the United States. Over my 40+ years of experience in the educational field, I have found this to be an increasing threat that teenagers face. And yet, I also fear that too much of today’s jargon still minimizes the seriousness of mental health. The truth of the matter is that 13 – 20% of children and teenagers in the United States have a mental health diagnosis.  Although there have been recent strides in reducing the stigma surrounding mental health care, teens and their families still face pressure to hide mental health diagnoses to avoid perceived social disapproval. We need to help our children and families to be prepared if such issues were ever to surface in your families.

Join us on this evening for a straightforward talk about the scenarios we have encountered at Flint Hill, and how as partners between home and school we can work together to provide a safety net for our children. Your children’s best interests are always at the core of everything we do. More on this will be shared as the time approaches.

As always, there is a lot going on at Flint Hill, and we are just getting started. Please continue to read this newsletter on Wednesday evenings to learn more about your child’s division, follow the school calendar and feel free to contact your division director or me with questions. We look forward to working together to make this 2017-2018 school year the very best it can be.

Best wishes to you! And again, please consider ways to support the people of Texas and other affected areas as the clean up begins.

Sincerely,

John M. Thomas
Headmaster