RTE's Operation Transformation psychologist Dr Eddie Murphy has some advice.
I have been busy the past few months doing talks in schools and libraries on wellness, mental health and parenting of teenagers, focusing on practical tips and tools.
There are many commonalities and for many parents the best source of support and information is other parents.
From these talks, and receiving a large number of enquires about those challenging teenage times, I answer four of the most common questions below:
Q 1: How do you develop a relationship with you child so they feel they can tell you anything. I hear very little from him at the moment!
Teenagers won’t tell you everything and believe me you don’t want to know. Did you tell your parents everything; your crushes and heartaches? I bet not. However you do want to be in a space where your child can talk to you about the important things. Getting to this is more difficult particularly if it’s a boy. Putting in the ground work is essential. Don’t expect regular heart to hearts. From my experience boys talk less face to face and more shoulder to shoulder, its less confrontational, so in the car is the best place. Listen more than tell. Teenagers will turn off if you start to tell or lecture. Listen to the feelings that they are trying to express.
Q2; How do you discipline a teen (age 14) who’s constantly moody and rude but is very sensitive and emotional?
I wish we could get a manual on rearing children, and even if we did it would all change. The challenge is hitting the right balances of strictness (setting boundaries and being consistent) and sensitivity (supporting & listening). Tough to set out your stall now at 14 but there is a requirement to be strict as in having ground rules and sanctions. It sounds like you are concerned about being firm for fear of emotionality and sensitivity. I think you need to be firm and fair. Setting boundaries and sticking to them help the teenager to know where the limit is. Knowing where the limit is reduces their fears and makes them feel more grounded.
Q3; Shouting at children is very taboo – Is it that bad to shout?
No, I can’t recommend it, yet I understand at times this might happen. It most often happens when the parent is stressed. However regular shouting is harmful. It produces a potentially compliant child (in your presence), that is fearful, has crushing low self-esteem and is at risk of depression in their adulthood. I see it too often in my therapy room. I just had to name it. Try to speak in a less harmful way.
Q4; How do you deal with a child who always has to have the last word?
It sounds like they learnt this from somewhere! Why can’t they have the last word? Why do you want it? I recommend that you share it out. Let your child have the last word regularly and you have it regularly. See what happens. See it like a fishing hook when it comes and choose not to bite, keep silent, smile and see what happens.