Five ideas for dealing with teenagers

Sophie Radice asks five experts for their tips on surviving life with teenagers


Five ideas for dealing with teenagers

1. Acknowledge their anger

If your teenager is flooded with emotion, acknowledge their rage by saying, ‘I can see you’re angry’ and step away for 10 minutes. Try to put yourself in their shoes. Can you remember how strong your own anger was at that age? It’s too easy to dismiss their reasons for rage as being teenage and silly. If you want to find out what’s wrong rather than just get them to shut up, you’re going to have to sit down and really listen to what they’re saying. It may seem to be about who’s hogging the telly but it might actually be about not having seen his dad for months. And don’t try and use humour. I remember my parents doing that and I felt humiliated and dismissed, and it just meant that the anger built up even more for next time.

Suzie Hayman, counsellor, broadcaster, author and vice-chair of Parentline Plus

2. Stay connected

I have had some wonderful bonding times with both daughters when we have gone somewhere alone together. Just being together in the car for a while means that the conversation flows naturally and we really catch up in a way that we might not have had time to do. I like to take them on special trips to celebrate achievements. I also think that volunteering information about your own adolescence helps them to understand how growing up has always been difficult as well as their particular inheritance of family madnesses.

Kate Figes, author of The Terrible Teens

3. You don’t have to be liked

Many parents are desperate to be popular with their kids, and this confuses things. You have to decide what you are really going to set up your stall about. For me it’s alcohol and drugs, and that means I will bite my tongue when it comes to what clothes they wear or tidiness. I think it’s interesting that when you really put your foot down about not staying over somewhere or going to that all-night party, they quite often don’t kick up as much of a fuss as you would think. Part of them is really relieved that they don’t have to go and they can blame you and slag you off to their friends.

Suzanne Franks, co-author of  Get Out Of My Life, But First Take Me And Alex Into Town

4. Negotiate trade-offs

Reins have to be loosened, but letting go is a process of negotiation. Trade-offs allow you to let go gradually and give your child increased independence. For instance, while you are happy for them to see friends at the weekend, you don’t want them to socialise too much on school nights. Parents who try and keep their teenagers as dependent as they were when they were small children will come into conflict with their offspring.

John Coleman, psychologist and founder of the Trust for the Study of Adolescence

5. Break the ice with a text

‘I think we need to have a talk’ will most likely be met with a grunt, and the quick presentation of butt cheek as they drag their underpant-exposing, jean-clad backside out of the room (at least in the case of a 15-year-old boy that I know very well). Nowadays kids do most of their most intimate communicating by text or on social networking sites. I recently had a situation where there was something monumental to be communicated – by my son to me – and he wanted to do it by text from the next room. I let him start out that way then I went in and sat next to him, hugged him and he talked.

Jenni Trent Hughes, agony aunt and author of Tough Talk Made Easy

More inspiration:

Read Lessons for my teenage son by Sam Cleasby on LifeLabs

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