By Laois psychologist and Operation Transformation expert Dr Eddie Murphy.
I have been busy the past few months doing some talks in schools on Wellness, Mental Health and Parenting Teenagers focusing on practical Tips and Tools.
What I can say is that there are so many commonalities and for many parents the best source of support and information is parents themselves.
I was in a school the other night in Rathcoole, invited by the Parents Council.
Let me deviate a little. I love how Parent Councils support schools in achieveing their aims.
Health schools have healthy relationships with their councils. They also support the libraries in some schools.
Ah Libraries! I don’t go often enough. I think they are the most underutilised and under-appreciated community resource.
If you haven’t been to your library in years go down there and take a look; Its more than just about borrowing books. Apart from archiving important local history, lending books, acting as community hubs, what I love is that people go to the library seeking information and end up finding each other.
They are cross generational where young and old mix in the absence of stigma. Libraries can do more I believe – as connection hubs for wellness – community, business, intellectual & emotional wellness. Here libraries can become spaces that support local businesses, parents, LGBT, immigrant and disable communities, arts, become hubs of adult learning – ‘the people university’.
Libraries can become champions of youth, supporting teens to learn important life skills.
This can be done through internship programs and becomes a hub for child development, helping and supporting young parents away from the clinic or medical environment, to a place where there is an unconscious but important statement saying 'we are all learning here'.
A place where through modern IT video consultations can be had with local healthcare workers; physiotherapists, psychologists, etc . Glad I got that off my chest.
And so from these experiences and receiving a large number of enquires about those challenging teenage times, it’s going to be a bit of rapid fire questions and answers this week.
Take Four – Teenagers!
Q1; 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!
A: In my view 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. Give me a shout on 0871302899, I would be happy to do a talk in your school on exam stress, mental health and wellbeing or parenting teenagers!
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 helps 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, yet I understand at times this might happen. It most often happens when the parent is stressed.
However regular shouting is harmful. I think 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. So less shouting and figure out what you want to say in a less harmful way.
Q5; 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.