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


Emotional Roller Coaster revisited

At the same time as adolescents are tied into a changing of body their emotions are often at the mercy of hormonal change. They may feel from time to time that nobody is in control! Here there is a need for personal space and sensitive space. Remember they are not yet adults and you will have to treat each moment as it comes, sometimes they will want you to give lots of hugs, other times they will brush you away. Do try to be understanding.

With the best of your intentions your teenager may still feel no one understands. Someone has said that every adolescent believes they are the first adolescent in history! This can lead to a sense they are meeting the challenge alone, and as their fears are often poorly articulated, they can be misunderstood by adults as a rejection of their love. This is not the case but they need to talk on their own terms and at their own choice of time, which rarely coincides with a time convenient to us.

Dr Ross Campbell in his book, ‘How to Really Love Your Teenager’ gives some helpful advice on how to recognise those times when your adolescent wants to talk. Everyone will be able to identify those times if they look for the clues. He writes about the teenager who really wants to talk on a subject which they find threatening, so instead of getting straight down to the point, will ask a question quite out of character. The alert person will pick this up.

For example, if they never ask about how your day went but suddenly do, this is a clue that a deeper conversation is being looked for. Campbell puts it like this, ‘We must be alert for such unsolicited and sometimes puzzling gestures, usually a hesitant teenager’s way of asking for time and focused attention. He is ‘feeling us out,’ testing us to see what kind of mood and frame of mind we’re in – to see if it is safe to approach us on an issue about which he feels uncomfortable.’ He says that for his own children he got used to the words, ‘Oh by the way’ being the code to pay particular attention.

As has already been indicated, adolescents have not achieved a settled identity and part of the emotional change they go through is establishing this identity. The question, ‘Who am I?’ can lead to crises. Pressure on all sides to be this or that creates confusion, inconsistency, discouragement, and even anger. As adults you must recognise your own fallibility and if young people have not already grasped this truth, they certainly will during the adolescent years. This realisation may cause anxiety as they come to terms emotionally with this truth.

Communication Killers

Continuing our mini-theme, here are some things guaranteed to kill a conversation at 20 paces.Image

  • Classic putdowns and the inappropriate use of humour
  • Increasing the volume – don’t scream!
  • Verbal overkill – otherwise known as going on and on
  • Shifting the topic
  • Suggesting they do things that we don’t do ourselves
  • Body language – a shrug of the shoulders communicates a lot
  • Finishing their sentences for them [so frustrating!]
  • Simply not listening

Communication is a two way process, so sitting their silently doesn’t work too well either.

Listening Tips

When they do begin to open up you will need to become an active listener – here are some thought provokers:Image

  • Don’t listen with just your ears – use your eyes and your emotions too
  • Don’t be a mind reader and fill in the gaps that they leave – ask if you want to know more.
  • Try not to be judgmental – listen with an open mind
  • Watch for their facial expressions and look out for when they are fidgeting
  • Silence is a great tool – use it wisely
  • Be careful with your interruptions especially if they are getting deep and meaningful
  • Tone of voice is definitely worth tuning in to
  • Practice reflecting back to them in summary form what you have heard.
  • Avoid cliché comments – one example that many people don’t like is ‘How did that make you feel?’
  • Find the time to listen – don’t let them feel pressured.

Feel free to add to the list – press the comment button below.

Tips for getting your teen to open up

Many parents struggle to get their teenagers to open up to them and allow them into their lives. It can sometimes seem that they are a closed book – one of those locked diaries maybe even with it’s own guard dog! From time to time it can seem impossible to get them to open up and allow you into their lives. Don’t give up!

Getting them to talk with you and for you to know about their lives can be a great way for you to protect them from danger, you can highlight things to them that they may not have been aware of. We are not suggesting that you spy and snoop, if you get your information that way them there will be very little you can do about it – and if they find out they will be very unhappy – to say the least.

Here are four ideas to get you started:Image

Start young – it is always easier to keep something going that has been a part of family life than to start a new tradition later in life. Of course you may hit some road blocks along the way but stick with it – the prize is well worth it.

Find common ground. Learn to be interested in what interests them, you will find they are more open to talk about those kinds of things. Yes, it means maybe listening to their music but it will form a platform to take the discussion deeper. Simply asking ‘how was school’ won’t get you very far.

Be open to what they say. Of course they may tell you things that you wish you didn’t know – either about themselves or their friends. Don’t appear shocked or react in a judgmental way because that will just cause them to close up. it is possible to tell them you disapprove of something without them feeling got at. If you can work through these things then they will surely come to you whenever they have a problem.

Spend more time together. In the busyness of life we can often skip spending time with your children. I often hear people talking about quality time but my experience has shown me that quality time only comes when there is quantity time. it isn’t possible to schedule quality time – that’s not how human relationships work. Many teenagers see the lack of time with their parents as a major concern. Here are 4 quick thoughts to help you

  • Why not set up a specific weekly get together, something fun. in my home town Tuesday nights are cheaper at the cinema. And it’s a 25 minute drive each way.
  • Try making dinner time a family time -0 not easy I know but if you can do it 2 or 3 times a week that would be great.
  • Get involved in one of their activities – coach their team.
  • Drive them to school each day instead of sending them on the bus – even if it’s only one way.

It may take some time to overcome their initial reluctance to open up but stay with it and the benefits you will get will be worth all the effort.

Choosing a High School

Your child will spend many years in high school and it will affect their grades, the colleges they can choose, university options and ultimately their career. So choosing a high school is of the highest importance.

So, where do you begin? Well the first decision is a philosophical one – do you educate your child in the public system, the private school or do you educate them at home?

There are pros and cons for all of them and the decision will more likely be influenced by your world view, financial status and your education level. It will also be shaped by your experiences to date. If you have home schooled to this point you will be aware of your child’s abilities and self discipline. If you have had a positive or negative experience of the private or public sector, this will weigh heavily one way or the other.

It is certainly a good idea to invite your child into the discussion although you will need to be aware that they will put great weight on the future schools of their friends.

Some specific questions to consider would include:

  • Have you the capability to teach them at home – have you the time and the flexibility?
  • Are you financially able to consider private education – are there scholarships available?
  • Does your child need social interactivity to thrive or are they often involved in bullying situations – at either ‘end’ of the process?Image
  • How important is sport to them?
  • Are they able to study unsupervised?
  • How far do you live from your preferred high school – how long will it take each day to travel?
  • How influential is your family’s faith in considering high school education?

There is no always right or always wrong answer. Your decision may be very different to your neighbour, to your friends – it might even differ from child to child.

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.