A s we enter a new phase in the restrictions, and there is some light at the end of what felt like a very long tunnel I am sure many parents will be considering what to do next to support their children. As an educator I too am turning my thoughts to how best to begin to reintroduce our services and support, to keep in line with the guidelines but also to do the best for the students on the island.
I have recently read a very interesting article in The Guardian which spent time looking at the impact on the mental health of young people who have been restricted. A study of over 60,000 people in lockdown in the UK, conducted by University College of London found that the age group 18 -24 had the lowest levels of life satisfaction currently.
It is easy to see why that may be the case. Exams young people have been told will shape the rest of their lives have been cancelled, future plans – for work, travel or further study – cast into uncertainty. Independence has been rudely interrupted.
My own daughter is locked down in London currently and as a university student preparing now to enter her 3rd and final year is feeling very nervous about what and how university will look and feel from September.
So, if you’re reading this, you may be a parent who’s looking for a little help figuring out how to effectively support your teenager through a difficult period and into the future, or you might be a parent who’s dreading the teenage years, and trying to get a plan in place to counteract the impact of this situation. You may have come to the conclusion that to be able to get along with your teenager is, most of the time, as a minimum a difficult and challenging mission.
Teenage years usually take parents by surprise. Adults, me included, find it hard accepting that the boy or girl who listened to them just yesterday has suddenly morphed into this rebellious, free spirited being who seems to be doing everything just to spite them. I remember pondering upon the fact whether my gorgeous daughter left home one morning and an alien took her place!!
Most parentsask their teenage children to do things the way that they have always done; to listen as they used to and to process information as their younger self would. However, this is impossible for a young person who is undergoing real strong physical, hormonal and emotional changes. A teenager is neither a child nor a grown up and lives every emotion to the fullest, both positive and negative.
Now remember we have all been there, and although you may say that you can’t remember ever ‘being as bad’ you must remember how all your interests and the way your thought process changed from 12 years onwards. Maybe your relationship with your parents wasn’t that bad or on the extreme it was like a raging war. No matter how your teenage years were, today as a grown up you probably realise that your parents were right but you just couldn’t accept that then.
One of the biggest challenges is to understand that just at the same time as these raging hormones kick in living currently has become more demanding with a lot going on academically and emotionally.
So what should we do? Well there is a whole list of do and don’t on various webpages which should help and currently the press are having a ‘field day’ about the right learning environment and so forth, but as an alternative perhaps we just have to keep calm and let them find their own way.
Out of the box I know; but stressing about the small stuff will just give us all a headache.
Every parent needs to read Richard Carlson’s book ‘Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff for Teens, and it’s all small stuff’. Carlson’s Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff titles are a number 1 best seller with over twelve million copies in print. The book dedicated to teens tells us how not to stress about homework, peer pressure, dating and other potential emotive issues. It reminds us that we need to pick our battles — you may not like the clothes your teenager is wearing, or the way he/she cuts their hair, but is it really worth fighting about? If it’s not putting your child at risk, give them the freedom to make age-appropriate decisions and learn from the consequences of their choices.
It is designed for the teenage to read also as it covers topics such as
· Be creative in your rebellion
Not read this bit yet! Rebellion is not something I want my teenager to get ideas about!
· Start a mutual listening club
Avoid the words ‘I know’ when talking to your teen. The book suggests that generally we don’t know and that we are only assuming. In most cases we are really saying ‘I am not listening to you’ Active listening is a skill, it is an important to feed good communication and enhance the quality of your relationship
· Notice your parents doing things right
Obviously I particularly like this title and interested to find out more.
· Be okay with your bad hair day
Of course is not only about your hair but the way we look and feel in general. Now I am 58 and I still understand this as much today as I did at 16! This chapter looks at how we are ‘encouraged’ to look a certain way and the way we fight back against this pressure is to make the decision to like yourself just the way you are.
· Turn down the drama meter
One for most teenage girls!
· Don’t sweat the future
Help them see that there is a good future out there but there is still time to do something that they enjoy and will reap benefits from, this time is a means to an end.
The mental health and stability of our young has never been more important; communication is the best base to try and understand each other.
Go on treat yourself and your teen to the book and see if it gets you talking, even if you think there’s nothing in it, it’s a conversation point at least.
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