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Dublin: 18 °C Friday 31 October, 2014

Column: 10 ways to get on with teenagers

How do you survive with a teen in your house? Parenting mentor, Sheila O’Malley, tells us how to keep your cool while still keeping communication lines open.

Sheila O'Malley

How do you get on with teenagers? It’s a serious question – it may seem impossible to many, what with the mood swings, the tantrums and then the weeks of silence.

All these things can test a parent’s patience says Sheila O’ Malley’s, a leading parenting and relationships mentor who runs practicalparenting.ie. She gives us a few key tips on how to manage and get the most out of your relationship with your teen. She writes:

1. Look after yourself first

IT’S LIKE IN an aircraft. You put your own mask on first. It stands to reason if you’re not looking after yourself; you can’t look after others. Incorporate this into your daily routine. Go for a walk by yourself or with a friend to de-stress. This way you get exercise, time to chat and time to think. Eat well and seek support from friends and family if you need it. Rest when you get the chance, rather than doing too much, operating from tiredness and neglect. Learn to say no, rather than doing too much and taking it out on your children. Remember, mornings begin the night before. Encourage your teen to help out with a pre prepared lunch, setting out uniform the night before. Get up half an hour earlier and reduce stress for all.

2. Eight minutes a day to make a teenager feel loved

Studies have shown just eight minutes a day ‘one on one’ time with your teenager can significantly increase their self-esteem and confidence levels. Maybe that’s why so many parents drive their teenagers to school! Teens prefer side-on communication so a car journey is a perfect opportunity to connect into their world. I’m always amazed at how much information I get en route to school. You want your teenager to feel loved, secure and special.  The more attention you give – the less they demand it and challenging behaviours should reduce.

3. Blame the behaviour, not the teenager  - “I love you, but can’t accept that behaviour”

Blaming lowers self esteem (“how could you be so stupid”). Limit criticism with teenagers. A young person can change how they behave, but not what a parent says they are. Therefore if they get a negative message from you they may take on the label ‘I’m stupid’. When your teenager deserves your love the least, they need it the most. Behaviour is usually about how they feel. If they are behaving badly it’s often attention seeking. Try understanding how they are feeling, if they feel understood and loved, they have no need to act out.

4. Press the pause button

When you feel angry a  lot of child experts will tell you to give the child time out, but really it’s you that needs the time out to calm down. Take action for yourself,  not against the child. Move away if you are going to lose it and breathe deeply until you calm down. In the heat of the moment,  just say to your teen “deal with it later”.

5. Seek first to understand – then to be understood

Instead of getting angry, try and let your teenager know you are listening to them. Come down to their eye level, speak quietly, make eye contact and use their name. “When you calm down; I can talk to you.” Misbehaviour that is ignored decreases over time.

6. Catch them being good – “I noticed… ”

Unconditionally love your teen, not for what they do, but for who they are. It takes five positive encounters with your teen to negate one negative one. Notice their efforts. Say things like “thanks for tidying up” or “I can see you are working hard on that” and you will notice them behave better as a result.

7. “I” messages and  keep communication lines open

Making negative ‘you’ statements is heard as a criticism. Instead of  saying “you’re always late,”or “you’re never on time” say “I feel upset and I need you to let me know if you’re running late for dinner because I have gone to trouble of making a meal.”  State your expectations in an ‘I’ message (“I expect… ”) and you may get a better response.

8. The calmer you are, the calmer they will be

Be the change they want to see. Ease up on yourself and you will ease up on them as the teen years can be difficult. Try not to sweat the small stuff. Let it go, slow down and ask yourself if it is really that important.

9.  Treat your teenager with respect

Children learn from the behaviour they see, and parents are a primary influence. You are the parent, therefore get in charge of your own behaviour. Be a good role model to your child. Treat them as you would wish to be treated. My experience is that what I put out, I get back.

10. Lighten up

Families can’t survive on rules alone. Have fun with your family because children don’t stay young forever. Do activities together and have fun with it. Bond with your family. Rule with love not laws, settle for less and be flexible. The more time you spend together and positive attention you give, the less they will demand and the better relationships will be at home.

Sheila O’Malley is a relationships and parenting mentor from practicalparenting.ie. Sheila offers one to one parenting mentoring, one day parenting courses  and parenting talks. For more information on their services you can email info@practicalparenting.ie or call 086 8759086. You can also visit their Facebook page here.

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