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Undoubtedly, the teen years can be daunting both for parents and for teenagers themselves. As adults, we tend to forget how challenging and frustrating those years can be – years of trying to cope with physical, emotional, mental and hormonal changes as they transition from childhood to adulthood.

In the face of feeling helpless and overwhelmed by our teenagers’ bad behaviour, anger, withdrawal, rejection and depression, it helps to remember that what we, as parents, can do is empower them with self-awareness and self-confidence to become balanced, well-rounded and successful individuals. Whatever our teenager’s issues, the good news is that there are tools to help us deal with them effectively.

Anger and general bad behaviour

Understanding that your teenager’s bad behaviour is mostly not a deliberate act of defiance, but a reaction to all the changes they’re experiencing and trying to make sense of it all, can go a long way towards helping you stay calm when your instinct is to lash out. Their anger and violence is often a cry for help, masking underlying feelings, such as frustration, sadness, embarrassment, fear, shame and vulnerability. By reacting with calm, you are better equipped to help them cope with the emotions and anger in a more constructive way. It also acts as a powerful role-model of how to handle anger responsibly – a skill which may benefit them in future

Keep communicating and REALLY listen

The keyword here is: Listen! Truly listen to what your teenager expresses, whether in anger, or when they are ready to discuss an issue which is important to them. Their withdrawal, secretiveness and refusal to share with you, could be a reflection of their feeling misunderstood, unheard and out of sync with their changing world.

Acknowledge their feelings, dreams and fears, and learn to ask the right questions. Certain questions can close down a conversation. By listening to what is really important to them, without bringing your own expectations and judgements into the mix, you will open the channel of communication and be able to offer support when they need it most.

If you would like some guidance on how to phrase these questions to ensure that they open up the conversation, professional counsellors are available to all members. Just call 0800 229355.

If at times you feel stressed about the changing dynamics with your child a very simple act of deep breathing really does help. Read this short blog.

Body image, sexuality and self-worth

One of the most upfront struggles for a teenager is to come to terms with their changing emotions and bodies. Their deep need to be recognised and accepted by their peers, can lead to high levels of anxiety, insecurity and pressure … and, of course, irresponsible behaviour. Abusing drugs and alcohol. Unsafe activities and sexual experimentation. Hanging out with friends instead of studying. Spending vast amounts of time and money on clothing. Or they may withdraw, and become unresponsive and depressed. Their fear of failure and of not being good enough is one of the greatest reasons for this stress. You can help them overcome this and build a strong self-image with techniques to programme the mind, such as self-affirmations. Repeated daily this will soon create more confidence and self-approval to make their lives so much easier.

Safe retreat and rest

In an effort to do it all and be it all, the teenager normally does not give high priority to relaxation, rest and sleep – and yet it is of the greatest important for their health, growth and performance. It is a known fact that teens require about nine hours of sleep, while the average teen manages about seven plus hours per night.

If you or your teen are having difficulty getting enough sleep try out the free, online sleep programme.

On the website click the ‘MyPlan 2BeWell’ tab, log on, and then follow the ‘Better Sleep’ programme

As the parent of a teen, it is wise to be vigilant, and instead of criticism, to offer positive encouragement, support and structure. Some helpful things you can offer your teen include, healthy eating habits; a form of tension release, such as regular cardio-vascular exercise to help relieve stress and depression; limits and boundaries, such as limits on computer time and a sleep and study schedule, a safe, private retreat where they can rest and recharge … and, of course, unlimited love!

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