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Much advice and help for parents is focused on young children, but what about teenagers? Workingmums.co.uk looks at some of the challenges and the skills parents will need.
Much of the advice and information available to parents centres on very young children. Parenting magazines tend to focus on sleep deprivation, weaning and the like, all of which are tricky subjects, but are they as difficult as finding the right moment to address the dangers of social media, sitting up late waiting for them to tell you where they are and when they are coming home and coaching them through important exams. As GCSE results are announced today, it’s a good opportunity to provide a handy guide to looking after teens.
1. Since it’s GCSE day, we’re starting with school pressure. The parent’s role is to cast a sceptical eye over all missives from schools that talk about impending doom if your child has a day off sick or any fun whatsoever in the lead-up to exams. This applies from Year Seven onwards.
2. Looks: again scepticism is imperative in the face of the onslaught of Youtuber makeover videos, selfie culture and the like. However, if you question the latest eyebrow etiquette, be warned that you may face an impassioned argument about global eyebrow culture dating back several centuries. It is also worth bearing in mind that parents of teens will have to develop the patience of a proverbial saint when waiting for them to exit the house as they spend hours moisturising every single part of their body or worrying about their abs.
3. Parents will need to develop devilish skills to draw teens away from endless phone communication, untold Netflix series [I’m just starting episode six of series 9, mum…] and Fortnight games. Sometimes the best option is to join in – at least with the Netflix series – and combine watching with squats or some other form of exercise that is possible to do while Netflixing and which means they don’t have to face the horror of going outside in daylight hours.
4. Listening skills are vital. Don’t speak, except cryptically [channel the role of wise sphinx], and let them find their own way to the answer. Bear in mind that they will only want to tell you vital stuff about their wellbeing, relationships with friends you have never heard of, etc, at odd hours in the night and probably at the very point that you have checked out mentally. You may need caffeine.
5. You will need to be prepared to provide a taxi service 24/7 because they will only ever tell you at the very last minute when they are coming home and will expect you to be on your phone at all times to receive said missives even though they have their phone constantly on airplane mode for the rest of the day and are completely untrackdownable. Get a list of their friends’ numbers, make a note of the ones who answer reasonably regularly and threaten to ring them whenever they don’t respond to urgent, in caps, texts about their whereabouts.
6. You may have thought sibling rivalry was at its worst in the toddler years. Think again. Sibling rivalry in the teen years, particularly between sisters, emerges on steroids. Everyone wants to borrow everyone else’s stuff, but nobody wants to lend theirs and yet they all think they are anti-capitalists and want to live in a vegan commune.
7. Remember sleep deprivation in the early years? It comes back at you, with a twist, in the adolescent years. While you may recall being forced awake at 5am in those early days, in the teen years you may well be still waiting to go to bed at 5am, having driven miles to the other side of the region you live in looking for signs of party-worn teenagers. Even if they are not out, you will be kept awake as they settle down to the entire BTS back catalogue until the small hours. The up side is that you will be able to lie in, unless you have to get up for work, because they will sleep through the entire morning.
8. Mental health – yours and theirs. Worry is a perennial for parents, but it increases exponentially in the teen years as all your previous parenting record comes under the microscope and any positive influence you may have had wanes. Mental health is also a huge issue for teenagers these days. It is your role to provide as stable and boring a presence as possible, yet to distract them from the gloom and competitiveness of everyday life by pointing out the essential comedy of life – even now, the fact that everything is just a stage and that there is always hope.
9. Mood swings. Remember at all times that they are on a hormone rollercoaster and are not necessarily in control of their emotions and thoughts. They need understanding, kindness and most definitely hugs, even if they refuse to admit it.
10. Finally, be sure to enjoy those teenage years and throw yourself into the wild ups and downs with abandon. You will gain an encyclopaedic knowledge of the latest bands, Netflix series and a whole range of new words that you will not necessarily always understand. They will always be one step ahead of you, whether with new words or new social media that disappears as soon as you come within range of their phone, but it will be fun trying, unsuccessfully, to outsmart them. You will travel with them as they discover new ideas, ways of being and thinking which will help you reconnect with your past self. And you will miss them terribly when they move on.