everything you wanted to know about teenagers but were just too frustrated to ask!

Archive for November, 2007

Teenage Acne and Helping your Teen Cope

To many people, apart from the one with it, acne can seem trivial but they will see it as a horrible affliction. Most teenagers get acne at some point and in severe cases it can lead to a negative body image and to depression. However there are steps you can take and there are treatments available to help them.

ImageThere are so many old wives tales and myths that your child may have come across. People may have told them or they may have read them online. So the place to begin is with the facts and for you to share them with your child.

So here are a few things that either cause acne or influence it and make it worse:

  • Genetics – not that we can do anything about them
  • Touching skin – just causes the spread
  • Too much scrubbing
  • Popping the spots – maybe fun but it’s not good for you.

There are other factors that will impact on general health and skin care. They are:

  • Diet – what we put into our bodies has to affect us.
  • Stress – the overall issues of our life
  • Hair shampoo and oils
  • Make up – what we put on our skin gets quickly absorbed.

Proper skin care is a skill that we should teach our children early. face washing using a mild soap twice a day (only twice!) When acne begins to develop but them an over the counter face wash. Of course you may need to experiment until you find the one that works best for you.

If the over the counter fails then don’t hesitate to visit your doctor or a dermatologist. Prescription medicines can be very effective although they can take up to 2 months to take effect so the sooner you act the better. It may cost money but it will make a heap of difference to your child.

Some young people may be embarrassed to talk to their parents about acne so feel free to take the initiative and start early! The first signs are when you should act as the process can be time consuming and the earlier the treatment starts the less serious it is likely to come.

Acne can be difficult for a young person to deal with but it will be a lot easier with your help.

What to do when you don’t like their friends

Teenagers are social beings and they will often want to invite their friends home as well as go to visit them. They will have a wide range of friendships and it is just a matter of time before you are going to dislike at least one of them. Here are a few thoughts to help you keep things in perspective and to prevent a small issue growing into a big problem.

Your first thing to do is think about why you don’t like the specific Imageperson. It could be a case of different personalities clashing – if that’s the reason then I suggest you ignore it. There are many people in the world that we don’t get along with and we need to allow our child to make friends with who they wish. It is part of the journey to adulthood and you don’t have to be friends with everyone they are friends with. As long as they are behaving responsibly then let them be friends – over time you might even get to like them.

Don’t tell your child what you don’t like about their friend – it usually doesn’t help. In fact, often it will bring them closer together rather than push them apart (teenagers can be stubborn you know). It can also put a strain on your relationship with your child – something to avoid for sure.,

If your concern is centred on the friends behaviours then I suggest you focus and comment on your child’s positive behaviours before criticising their friends.

If their friends are getting into trouble then don’t take it out on your kid or automatically assume your kid is going to get into trouble too. It could turn out to be a great learning opportunity. You may need to put some special conditions in place – being supervised, getting home by a certain time, keeping in more regular contact for example, but be careful not to restrict your teen too heavily just because of their friends behaviour.

As you teen gets older they are learning to make their own decisions – including who they have as their friends. The best way to influence their behaviour is to ensure you are one of their friends too!

Quick Family Check Up

From time to time it is good to assess where we are as a family, and I just want to proviImagede you with a list of 7 areas that would warrant your consideration. Ask yourself, as openly and honestly as you can – how are we travelling as a family in each of these areas. It is also a good idea to think about each individual member and consider what their response might be. If they are ‘of an age’ then you can ask them directly – it will make for a great dinner table discussion [or a series of discussions!]

So – how are you with:

  1. Caring – is there a general caring atmosphere in your family? Who cares for the carers?
  2. Respect – is there respect both from younger to older as well as older to younger?
  3. Flexibility – are you willing to put yourself out for someone else? Are there individuals who seem to be taking advantage of others by expecting them to flex their way but not the other way round?
  4. Expressive – are you able to be open with each other, to celebrate the good times and to brainstorm the difficult times?
  5. Responsible – does everyone play their part? Or is it the same person leaving laundry on the floor for someone else to pick up? [Just as an example]
  6. Initiating – do you have to tell everyone what to do – e.g. emptying the dishwasher – or do they take the initiative?
  7. Realistic – does everyone have a realistic view of each other and of the family as a whole? Or are there some expecting the ‘earth’ – e.g. latest gadgets?

The list is not exhaustive and I am willing to accept additional items – it is just designed to be a conversation starter. Enjoy!

Celebrate your Child’s Uniqueness

Just like a snowflake or a fingerprint, every child is unique in their own Imagespecial way. Every child has a unique way of feeling, thinking, and interacting with others. Some children are shy, while others are outgoing; some are active, while others are calm; some are fretful, while others are easy-going. As a loving and nurturing parent, it’s your job to encourage them to embrace their uniqueness and celebrate their individual qualities.

Allow your child to express themselves through their interests. They may find a creative outlet in theatre, dancing or art, or they may be exceptionally talented in the sciences. Encourage them to embrace what they like to do, what interests them, and what makes them happy. Help them realize that they don’t need to worry about being ‘like everyone else.’

Teach your child to make positive choices, and praise them for good deeds, behaviours and positive traits they possess. Encourage them to become actively involved in their community, and introduce them to activities that promote a sense of cooperation and accomplishment. Be firm yet fair when handing down discipline for misdeeds or misbehaviours, and make certain the rules and consequences for breaking the rules are clearly defined. Show a cooperative, loving and united front with your spouse when it comes to discipline.

Accept and celebrate your child’s uniqueness. Remember that your child is an individual. Allow your child to have his or her own personal preferences and feelings, which may be different from your own.
And finally, encourage your child to be true to themselves by doing the same. Show your child how to make positive choices with the choices you make, and that nobody is perfect and you too make mistakes. Show your child that mistakes can be a great learning experience, and that they should not be ashamed or embarrassed about making them. .

Bodily changes are a part of the journey

Adolescence is a period of rapid physical growth with the result that they are always tired, always hungry, always clumsy, and always irritable. As they grow fast, so they eat a lot. Their emotions are worn-out by physical change, so they become short-tempered and display a tendency to victimise siblings. It is helpful to know that all teenagers are awkward, not just yours. Their bodies are growing so fast their brains have not caught up and so they tend to knock things over and lose the control they had when younger. All in all, change equals stress!

ImageIt is at this time when the cry from people is often heard, ‘You clumsy oaf!’ This is not helpful, try to think how your teenager is feeling. She may have enjoyed ballet for a number of years but has suddenly grown to the point where the movements are no longer second nature and are even painful; he may no longer be selected for the football team having always been good at sport and your personal attack may scar him for life. Some young women (and, more rarely, young men) get so anxious about their appearance they take drastic measures to try and change the way they look and may even fall prey to eating disorders. Your love and affirmation will help them through this time. What young people need at this stage in their physical development is understanding.

For some young people physical growth doesn’t happen soon enough. I remember being a ‘late developer’ not becoming an average height until I was 16 years old [thankfully there was one person who was shorter than me!]. Re-read section A – the time for acceptance not criticism.

From my low level I envied all the tall ones. I now realise that they too got teased and called names. Perhaps this is one area of your life, at least for this specific time, that it is a good thing to be ‘just average’.

We suggest keeping a growth chart with dates and heights on, say, the doorpost to the kitchen. It will be a reminder how quickly they are growing and an opportunity to talk about the changes that are taking place. You could even remind them of the time you used to do this when they first started walking. Make it into a family ritual – a fun time.

Friends with benefits?

In a recent blog post, Aspen Education Group wrote:

“Friends with benefits” is a term today’s teenagers and college students use for couples who have sex but are not romantically in love.

I have been aware of the use of this phrase for quite some time. However, I don’t think I have ever seen it written down or defined. Seeing it in print renewed my unease with the whole concept.

A new study published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior indicates that such relationships are common. About 60% of 125 students surveyed at Michigan State University reported having had a “friend with benefits” relationship. Only one-tenth of these couples became full-scale romances. About a third stayed friends but stopped having sex, and a fourth broke off altogether. The rest remained “friends with benefits.”

Of course with statistics we never really know how reliable they are when extrapolated [good word?] out to the general population. In real figures that means that out of the 125 surveyed 24 of them are still ‘enjoying’ a friend with benefits situation.

“We found that people got into these relationships because they didn’t want commitment. It was perceived as a safe relationship, at least at first,” Dr. Timothy Levine observed. “But there was this growing fear that the one person would become more attracted than the other.” The couples usually never talked about one subject: their relationships.

And therein lies the two issues : a lack of commitment and an inability to talk about their relationship.

On scales of intimacy, “friends with benefits” score low on passion and commitment.

If they score low on intimacy and passion then it makes me ask the question – ‘why bother’? But then again the answer comes to mind immediately – it’s just an answer I don’t want to acknowledge!

6 steps to creating a stable home life

1. Maintain a daily routine

As much as possible try to follow a set pattern each day. On school days get the family out of bed at the same time, have a shower/bathroom roster, breakfast together, leave the house in good time for school transport. All these little things help young people feel secure and safe.

2. Make a fuss on special days

Go wild on birthdays – help them feel that your family parties like no other. It doesn’t need to take heaps of money – be creative. If it’s winter and likely to snow then make the day a toboggan Olympics or the largest snowman ever, or the snowball fight to end all snowball fights.

Food always works – try the largest banana split in the world (to give you an idea it involves using a clan drain pipe).

3. Include children in decision making

Children begin to feel uneasy, afraid and insecure when they don’t know what is happening. When huge decisions are taken and they feel in the dark. The answer is simple – involve them in the discussion. It will need to be age sensitive but don’t assume they haven’t already worked out something is going on.

4. Affirm their worth regularly

Adolescence is a scary journey and is often riddled with a sense of just not being good enough. If we seek out opportunities to affirm their worth (and take every one we get) then we will be shaping their self esteem – making it more and more healthy. A healthy self esteem equals a happy teenager. And what do happy teenagers make? – happy parents!

5. Encourage parent substitutes in their life.

Home life will be more stable if our teenagers relate well to other caring adults. If they connect with a family member, neighbour or youth worker then that takes some of the parental load, gives another person’s perspective and allows for our teen to (occasionally) raise some issues about us.

6. Keep consistent boundaries

All of us benefit from clear, well defined boundaries even though it seems to be human nature for us to push them a little (as an example car drivers and speed limits). Having said that the key word here is consistent. If there are two parents/adults then it works best if the boundaries have been pre-agreed and don’t vary from one parent to the other. The boundaries need to be the same day in and day out too.

Text translation for Parents (and other oldies!)

Many of you will have noticed that young people have developed a skill (or is it an art) of communicating without unnecessary vowels. This trend has been started due to the need to limit the characters in any message to 160 – as set by mobile phone companies.

This has also been carried into the world of Instant Messaging – try your hand at this message and see how you fare:

My smmr hols wr CWOT M8, B4 we used 2go2 LDN 2C my bro, his gf + thr 3 :-0 kids FTF. ILLDN, its a gr8 plc! ATM POS!

I will strategically place a picture here to give you some brain space to think it through without the answer appearing in your line of sight.


So here we go – the full English version:

My summer holidays were a complete waste of time, mate. Before we used to go to London to see my brother, his girlfriend and their three kids face to face. I love London it’s a great place.. At the moment, parent over shoulder.

[The final statement being a caution to their friend to tone down any language and also to let them know the conversation may change a little or slow down]


So – how did you go?

Initiation and the Teenager

In pre-industrial cultures, the transition from childhood to adulthood was accomplished in a short time span, and often accompanied by a decisive ceremony, such as the Jewish Bar Mitzvah. Nelson Mandela describes in painful detail the day, at sixteen, when he was accepted into adulthood in a traditional ceremony of circumcision. Each boy is trained to cry out, at the very moment of circumcision, ‘Ndiyindoda!’ which means, ‘I am a man!’. The ceremony, over several days, takes place in an isolated place, where special lodges had been constructed to house the 26 young men being initiated at the same time.

ImageMandela writes: ‘I had now taken the essential step in the life of every Xhosa man. Now I might marry, set up my own home and plough my own field. I could now be admitted to the councils of the community: my words would be taken seriously … At the end of our seclusion, the lodges and all their contents were burned, destroying our last links to childhood, and a great ceremony was held to welcome us as men to society…’

Western society has for the most part lost the remnants of such initiation rites, and has both extended and blurred the gap between childhood and adulthood. The phrase Adolescent was first coined in 1905 by G Stanley Hall, and by the 1950′s the concept of the ‘teenager’ had arrived; a half-child, half-adult creature who hovers uncertainly between dependence and acceptance, and for whom the transition will last for anything from six years upwards. All the signs are that adolescence is getting longer, as children enter the phase sooner, and wait longer, by choice or default, to settle into stable relationships and fixed economic activity.

In this sense it seems fair to describe adolescence as an artificial extension of the initiation process: thus there is work to do in helping young people and parents through it, and in applying Biblical wisdom. The emotional needs of the child are the same as they might be were the initiation process condensed into a short ceremony. Adolescents stand caught between memories of the childhood they now know to be over and prospects of an adulthood in which they have not yet tested out their skills.

They need:

  • To know that they belong and are loved, and that the family that has nurtured them to date will still be there for them: not casting them out but helping them to move on.
  • To know that there is a place for them in the adult society into which they are being initiated.

At the end of a seminar, a nineteen year old took issue with the presenter for saying teenagers were not adults. She was angry and hurt and asked how dare they make such a statement when she felt strongly that she was in every way an adult and challenged the concept being put forward that teenagers were still children.

When do you think your child became / will become an adult?

5 things teens DO like in their parents

This article provides balance to my earlier post on 7 things teens don’t like about their parents – here are things they DO like:

When parents act naturally

Part of growing up is understanding people, learning how they act and think – observing behaviours as young people try and work out who they are. So they love it when their parents can be real; when they don’t need to act intelligent, or to act strong, or to act calm but to allow them into some of the real conflicts that the adult world provides. When we show emotion, we hug them – just being ourselves.

When parents talk on their level as adults

Transactional analysis shows that we communicate on 1 of 3 basic levelsImage (parent, child and adult) and our teens love it when we talk to them adult to adult. (Now I am the first to admit that it is not always possible to do this when they are acting like children). When we discuss and debater rather than dictate; when we negotiate rather than mandate; when we listen rather than just talk. try it – you will be surprised at how adult they can be (and how hard it is for them to not do what we ask when we ask it in an adult way).

When parents are firm

In contrast to their stated opinion young people love it when the boundaries are clearly stated and we are firm. Of course they will constantly seek to push them and stretch deadlines but they know it is good for them when we stick to our decisions. I don’t mean that we will never negotiate but I do mean we won’t be walked over.

When parents are polite to their friends

I am a firm believer on inviting their friends round to our house as often as possible – we can learn a great deal from knowing which people they hang out with. Whenever I do come into contact with my children’s friends – whoever they are and whatever they look like – I am always polite. It is a respectful thing to do and the opposite is totally unacceptable from your child’s point of view. IF you have issues then you can always talk them through (adult to adult) when the moment arrives – and that is never when the friend is there.

When their privacy is respected

Looking in diaries, walking into bedrooms, listening in to phone calls are NOT options to caring parents. Our teenagers are becoming adults and have a right to expect privacy – not just physically (bedroom, bathroom etc) but emotionally (diary) as well. If we have a concern then we should talk it out not snoop around.