HOW Do You Work With Teenagers?

HOW do you work with teenagers?

I get asked this quite a bit.

My answer?
Very easily actually.

Because ‘teenagers’ are wicked.

They have SO much to offer society and they have so much brilliance in them, if we’d only stop sometimes to listen.

Teenagers are in limbo; stuck in the chaotic chasm between childhood and adulthood; trying not to be children, trying desperately to be adults, and landing somewhere in the middle.

They are brilliant. They are intelligent. They are fun and they are inspiring. They are kind and empathetic and sensitive and brave.

Surely there are moods and hormones and stomps and grumps and huffs and eye rolls and attitude; but guess what?

They were huffy and stubborn as toddlers and children too.

And as adults, we’re pretty partial to the odd huff or eyeroll or attitude too, are we not?

Being a teenager is hard. And I wouldn’t return to that period of my life for all the tea in China. (Well, maybe for an hour to give myself some advice.)

We expect them to act grown up but then criticise them if they do anything “adulty”

We expect them to stop acting like children and yet, can treat them like children in the next breath.

We often assume that they are moody and grumpy just because of their age, rather than asking them what is actually bothering them.

We assume that they are all addicted to computer games and incapable of doing anything for themselves, when actually, so many of them are creative and capable.

We brand them impossible and useless and tut at their inability to make decisions or solve problems.

And in so many cases, the things that we complain that they can not or will not do for them, are because we didn’t show them how to do it, or trust that they could.

Now listen, I know that some parents get it incredibly difficult with their little Sweetums-turned-Satan, and as a teacher believe me, I have been on the receiving end of some teenage angst and attitude in my time.

But I have also learned that often, the behaviour that is causing the adults to eye roll and stomp feet, is not a result of ‘bad’ kids, but often a result of frustration.

New emotions, new feelings, new situations, new relationships, new friends, new worries, new realisations, new expectations, new disappointments… everything is new.

The level of overwhelm on a daily basis is unreal for many.
And don’t even start me on the kids who are dealing with all sorts of chaos at home before they even get to school in the morning.

Why the hell would a young person who has spent the night listening to rows, or who hasn’t eaten properly in 2 days, give a continental shite about right angles, or Shakespeare’s soliloquies, or that you are “so disappointed“ in them for not having homework done again or for being late.

Some teenagers are going through things that most of us, as adults, wouldn’t have a clue how to start dealing with.

Sometimes we need to cut them some slack.
Sometimes we need to ask how they are.
Sometimes we need to ignore the attitude and continue to be pleasant and nice to them.
Sometimes we need to NOT respond how they expect us to when they kick off.
Sometimes, we need to trust them.

For many young adults, all they want is trust. To feel trusted and to be given some responsibility to try, and to prove themselves. They need to know that failing at something is not as important as having TRIED it in the first place.

And again, guess what?

The magical 18th birthday does NOT with it bring the key to all things adulty. I’m a long-time, “experienced” adult and I’m still experiencing all of the NEW things I listed above. And sometimes I feel like a teenager who needs an adult to show me how to fix or deal with things.

Life doesn’t change. We get on with adulting and being adulty and we continue to deal with new problems and fears and worries and people.
Adults just don’t get criticised so much when they make mistakes or get overwhelmed.

We need to give teenagers some credit.

They are wonderful.
They are brilliant.
They are kind and they are caring.

If you trust them, or let them use their own initiative, it’s incredible what they can do.
If you let them express their emotions, they might just learn to understand them.
If you tell them things are going to be OK, they might just believe you.
And if you tell them you believe in them, they might just start to believe in themselves.

Because if they think we don’t like them or believe in them, how can we expect them to like themselves?
And while sometimes, we want to give them the proverbial kick up the *&^%, they’d probably do a whole lot better, if we gave them a smile or a hug.

Because sometimes a hug is all we need. Teenagers and adults alike.

So How do I work with teenagers?
Quite happily thank you.

Taking the Compliment…

” Your daughter is beautiful!” Aw she is, isn’t she? Thank you.

“I love her coat.” I know, isn’t it gorgeous?

“Your son is so funny.” Yeah, he cracks me up.

“You look gorgeous.” Aye right, I haven’t even brushed my hair.

“I love your top” Penney’s best.

“Those are nice jeans.” Oh I’ve had these old things for years.

“Is that a Hilfiger shirt?” It was on sale!

Notice anything?

We don’t know how to take a compliment.

Nothing new there. We all know that the Irish don’t take compliments well. We are suspicious of them. We don’t like them. For some reason, they make us feel very uncomfortable.

But when someone compliments our kids, we are more than happy to agree with them. If someone points out something positive about your little minion, chances are that you will be delighted that they’ve noticed and you will nod in agreement, as proud as punch.

However, if the same person tells you with their next breath that YOUR hair is lovely, you will most likely find yourself disagreeing and parting your hair to show them just how badly your roots need redone.

So what the hell is wrong with us?

If I tell Mini-Me that she looks beautiful or that her hair is pretty, she smiles at me and says “Thanks Mum” or “I know!” (shock horror!)

She takes the compliment. She doesn’t NEED it to feel better or to affirm her or any other such nonsense. She takes it, because at 7 years old, she doesn’t find it strangethat someone would praise her or compliment her.

She is indeed beautiful x

It is not unusual to her that someone might point out something positive.

She is not suspicious of compliments.

She doesn’t need to be.

So when does that stop? When will she suddenly begin to apologise for her positive features? When will she become flushed with embarrassment because someone comments on how well she dances?

What will happen to make her suddenly feel that she should disagree with someone who tells her she is clever, or pretty, or talented or funny?

Will she simply wake up some morning, feeling the need to apologise for being good at something, or for being nice?

Now, of course I know that we must teach them to be humble also. No one likes a boaster. But why the hell should we teach them that they should apologise for being good at something?

Why should we teach them to disagree with someone who is genuinely being nice to them?

When did humility become the same thing as humiliation?

Because somewhere along the way, we’ve confused the two.

If someone admires your hair today, reply by saying “I know! It’s sitting nice today isn’t it?” I dare you. And watch their reaction.

It’s pretty likely that they’ll flinch in surprise.

If someone admires your top, try “Thanks, I like it too.” (Would you have bought it if you didn’t?)

If someone points out something that you are good at, thank them and tell them “Yeah, I try hard.”

If they walk away from you thinking you’re big headed or conceited, then who has the problem? If they meant the compliment, they won’t mind that you agree with them.

Does it not make sense that if we were to let our kids see us accepting compliments more comfortably, maybe we’d be helping them?

Our kids learn by watching us, our behaviours, our responses. Someday soon, when Mini-Me hears me answering “Oh God, this old thing?” or “Aw my skin’s a mess” or “God no, I sound dreadful!”, then she’s going to store it in her bank of “Acceptable grown up things to say” isn’t she?

And therein begins that humiliation.

We all do it.

I do it. I did it yesterday when a friend praised me. I automatically told him he was full of nonsense.

Why? If he hadn’t thought I was good, he wouldn’t have bothered to tell me I was, so why did I disagree with him?

Because we are trained, somewhere along the line, to apologise for ourselves.

Because acknowledging our own strengths and positive characteristics is seen as terribly obnoxious and wrong.

Because one day, without even realising it, we learned that to accept a compliment was wrong.

We’re hardwired to think the worst about ourselves; to worry about what others think. Being a parent brings a new level of this.

We are constantly comparing ourselves, berating ourselves, apologising for our decisions, for our behaviour, for our children’s behaviour.

But the sooner we can rewire ourselves to look more closely for our own positives, the more chance we have of teaching our children that it’s OK to say “thank you” when someone compliments us.

Plenty of people will thrive on bringing them down, on highlighting their weaknesses and flaws. We need to teach them to recognise those people. And we need to teach them that if someone feels the need to comment on them in a negative way, then it’s that person who has the problem, and not them.

So accept the compliment.

Let your children hear you accepting it. Let them see that it’s OK to be proud of yourself sometimes and that you don’t need to ever apologise for being good, or kind, or talented or clever.

And give someone a compliment today too. Feel free to compliment your friends in the comments below.

Let’s SHARE some love today!

You never know whose day you might just make.

By the way, you have a lovely smile!

Mammy in Training…

My journey through the jungle of Mammyhood so far has many things. I am always learning and yet it feels like I never learn! 😅

Regardless of how you become a Mamma: pregnancy, IVF, adoption, fostering, marriage… if you are responsible for loving a child, you’re a Mammy.

And it’s quite a job.  A career.  A vocation even!

Let’s face it.  If I want to embark on any career, I generally need to spend 3-5 years being educated to qualify me properly to attempt it.  Being a Mammy (and indeed a Daddy!) doesn’t require a degree, and yet it is the most challenging career in the world.

As parents, we become educated in life and often hilariously terrifying ways of the world that no university could ever teach…
but if they did…IF there was a degree in parenting, here is what I imagine it would look like:

“Bachelor of the art of Perfect Parenting”

* Pregnancy and Parenting: A beginner’s guide

* Preparing for your new arrival – Required equipment

* Food preparation for the healthy family
* Techniques for sleep and Behaviour

* Planning your child’s play and Sensory Scenarios

 * First aid for Mummies

*Relationships; maintaining healthy romantic and familial relationships

*Positivity, Mindfulness and Sleep Deprivation – How to deal with it.

*Language and Speech Development.

And at the end, you would be a QUALIFIED parent.  You would have folders of notes, and a brain bursting with facts and figures, and lesson plans and medical references.
You’d be sorted. 😉

But as a Real Mammy, who knows that most of the above is utter crap, and that these headings only SCRATCH the surface of parenting, let ME suggest what a parenting degree outline should look like!
“Bachelorette of Thoroughly Modern Mammyness.”

Module 101 – Pregnancy and Parenting: A beginner’s guide – Life as you know it, ends here.  You only think you know what pain, fear and exhaustion are now.  Pregnancy is like a “One size” bra.  It fits some women better than others. Mine fit like a 4 man tent.  You may glow, or you may puke.  It’s great fun.  But at the end of it, there’s a wonderful thing.  And there’s  also the Love. I won’t even try to prepare you for that. I can’t. 💗💙💗💙💗💙💗

Module 102 – Change everything – The house, the layout of your rooms, the car.  Everything.  And enjoy your magazine perfect showhouse with your fancy candles and FengShui… That shit ends once your minion is able to move about on your once-but-never-again-clean rug.  All ornaments and valuables should be put up on a high shelf, or locked away for approximately 15 years.  Actually, just sell them.  You’re going to need the cash for the Stuff. 👇

Module 103 – All the Stuff.  Get your list of Baby Essentials.  Got it? Now, rip it up.  You do not need 250 steriswabs, or 5 pairs of scratch mittens.  The only thing on those lists that isn’t exaggerated, is the quantity of industrial sized sanitary nappies, sorry, towels.  Buy ALL of those bad boys.  And then buy extra.

And as for the list of furniture, equipment and travel accessories?  Get your basics.  Car seat, cot, baby bath, changing mat.  Depending on YOUR own house and YOUR own situation, you’ll know what you need as you need it.  Do not buy all the everything!  Trust  me, you’ll end up with a house that looks like a Baby shop has puked on it and, in approximately 8 months time, as you put the only-used-once-stuff in the attic, you’ll wonder why the hell you bought it in the first place.

Oh! And those lovely nursing chairs that we all want for our idealistic moments of feeding baby in the nursery?  They are the most glorified clothes storage devices in the world.  Your baby will more than likely be in your room for the first 6 years…sorry months… anyway, and when you ARE doing night feeds, you’re more than likely going to want to do them in the heat of your bed,  rather than in an empty room.  Yes, they’re lovely and I’m sure someone will disagree here, but that’s how I see them… A clothes horse.

Module 201 – Techniques for Sleep and Behaviour  –  Pray, wing it and go with your gut.  You can’t control your baby’s sleep.  You can’t control your baby’s behaviour.  You can only go with what you get on a daily basis and trust me, often, as cliched as it is, it IS just a phase.  And if you do find yourself genuinely struggling with either of these issue, ask for help.  There are brilliant (and actually qualified with real degrees) professionals in our community and there are SO MANY brilliant resources that Mums and Dads can access easily.

Google Parent Hub. Parent Hub, Donegal

You’ll be amazed at what they offer. Or talk to your PHN or GP.

Module 202 – Planning your child’s play   – Buy toys.  Watch child play with boxes, lunchboxes, remote controls and ANYTHING they shouldn’t have that could pose danger to them.  Shake head at the amount of educational crap in the toy corner and get out the saucepans and wooden spoons.  Oh and get down on your knees and play! 😅

Module 203 – First aid for Mummies – Have a meltdown everytime they cut themselves, bump their head, break a sweat, have a strange poo or get a temperature.  Slowly learn to recognise your own baby’s physical reactions and signs.  Google symptoms, freak out…ask on a Mammy forum…freak out…

But seriously, we’re mums.  Unless you ARE a Doctor, if you’re concerned about Baby, GO TO A DOCTOR!  And follow your gut.  While it may be sick with worry, Mamma’s gut is always right.

Optional Modules 

Relationships – learning how NOT to murder your partner at 3am

Sex – You will want to think about it again some day… 😈😉😈

Alcohol – It shall be frowned upon, but some days, even the most Sanctimonious of Sanctimommies thinks about gin at 11am.  They just won’t admit it.

Swearing control – Any parent who has never sworn behind the back of their child, or at least mouthed a profanity when they hear “Mammy” for the 387th time that day, is either sedated or a liar…

Disney lyrics – because you will need to know them.
And so there you go. I hereby declare the Bachelorette of the Thoroughly Modern Mammyness open for application.

**No previous experience or qualifications required. 

It’s a tight course, but the end result is something that no amount of paper or letters after your name can measure.  But if you really want to show off your qualifications, just start signing off like this…
S-Mum (Mum.Mum.Mum.Mum.Mum.Mum.Mum.Mum.Mum…)
Suggestions for extra optional modules on a postcard please. 😙😙😙

How do you measure up? 😂😂😂

Some Advice for Exam Parents

Exam season is upon us again.
 
It seems to come around faster and faster each year, doesn’t it?
 
If your little darlings are about to do their Junior or Leaving Certificate Examinations, here are some ideas on how you can help them.
 
1. Sleep: Seems obvious and it’s easier said than done to get teenagers to go to bed at the best of times, and yet sleep is the one thing that we need in order to function properly. Talk to your child and agree a consistent bedtime for the next 3 weeks. Agree on a cut off time for studying, no matter how much they insist that they need to do more. Agree on a cut off time for screens and insist that until the exams are over, screens should not be in bedrooms. Even the simple absence of the phone from the bedroom can do wonders for the sleep that we get.
 
2. Hydrate: Yeah yeah Yadda yadda… but again, vital. Challenge them to drink 2 litres a day. There are loads of cool bottles that help to motivate water intake now. And they all have apps on phones that can help remind them to drink water too. Dehydration leads to headaches and sluggishness; all of the things that they DON’T need at the minute.
 
3.Nutrition: The State Exams can last for up to 2 weeks for some students. If an athlete were going into a 2 week event, they’d be fuelling up their bodies in preparation for months. If your child has a balanced and varied diet already, great. Keep it up. If not, try to introduce more whole foods and more fruit and veg. Convenience snacking is a massive issue when stress and tiredness kick in. Try to have dinners pre-cooked and healthier snacks in the fridge for when they appear from their pit “staaaaaarving”. In fairness to them, the last thing they are thinking about is their food right now. But don’t make a big deal about it. Remember when they were toddlers and you conveniently had lots of healthy snacks and precooked meals in the kitchen? For the next 3 weeks, go back to that! Just maybe ease up on the purees! (AND BREAKFAST is a must. They might not be hungry, but they can’t sit a 2-3 hour exam on an empty tummy. Bananas are great for calming butterflies in the tummy.) 
 
4. Exercise: If your child has a hobby, or goes to a class each week, let them continue with it. As a teacher, I hear parents saying “Oh they’ve stopped that until after the exams”. And while yes, many need to cut back on some activities in order to study, cutting out EVERYTHING is a bad idea. Try to encourage them to do something every day, even if it is simply going for a ten minute walk. Send them to the shop. Throw them a basketball. Dust off the punchbag in the garage. Anything to get them moving for even a few minutes. Times of high stress are the times when we NEED to be able to release, may it be dancing, kicking, running or a gym class. It helps keep energy levels up.
 
5. Keep the stress levels down: And I’m not just talking about THEIRS. State Exams have a way of reducing Mums and Dads to tears. Yes, this is a big deal. Yes, the exams are important, but what is more important is that your child is alive and well and able to do the exams. Don’t dismiss the significance of these exams, but equally, don’t paint them to be the be all and end all. Their best is all that they can do and regardless of what is in the little brown envelopes at the end of the summer, life will go on and they will be ABSOLUTELY FINE!
 
6. Positivity : Rather than constantly “annoying” or “torturing” them, let them hear praise. (Because no matter what we say, they only hear nagging don’t they?) Let them hear you believe in them. Let them hear “You will be fine” or “Do your best” or “I’m proud of you.” Seems silly maybe, but trust me, so many of our teenagers are so skilled at feeling useless and crap all by themselves. Sometimes all it takes is for them to hear someone tell them they can do it.
 
7. Last minute pages: SO this is the teacher talking now. Get them to take an A4 page and for each subject, on which they write down all of the key phrases and ideas and names and keywords, dates etc., all over it, on both sides. If their teacher has things that he or she CONSTANTLY repeated in class, write those down too.
Use different coloured pens and make it bright. Laminate it when they’re done if you like. But have it that THAT PAGE is the ONLY thing they look at on the morning of the exam. I also advise that when they walk into the English paper, before they even read the questions, to jot down as many of the important terms and titles on one of the roughwork boxes or blank pages. That way, they have a go-to wordbank if they get a blank brain AND they won’t forget character names or poem titles in the heat of the exam. (Happens to the best!)
 
8. Ditch the Drama: Warn your kids of the dangers of the Drama Llama on the morning (or afternoon) of the exam. While they’ll want with their friends, so often it is the worst place they can be. Hearing “Oh I only glanced at Chapter 23 last night” or “I haven’t LOOKED at that book!” or “I am so screwed”can cause panic in an anxious child’s mind. They’re already dealing with their own anxiety and nerves. They don’t need JohnJoe or Nancy’s stresses on top of their own. Tell them to politely stay away from groups until after the exam. They are much better served by reading over their last-minute page on their own. They can chat about it as much as they want when it’s over, but being focused and quiet before the exam really does work wonders.
 
9. SPACE it out: If space allows, tell them to skip 2-3 lines between each paragraph. This allows them space to jot down anything that might come to mind as the revise over what they’ve written at the end. (And it makes life easier for the examiner if sentences aren’t written sideways up a margin. With a few subjects being corrected digitally this year, anything written outside the allocated area won’t be scanned. Remind them of this.)
 
10. Believe: While the state exams are possibly THE biggest thing in your whole family’s life right now, it is important to remind the kids that every single person who is older than them, has been through and sat through these exams. They can only do their best. Yes, they’re a huge deal, but they’re also just a bump in the road that you have to drive over to get to summer. They’re well ready and well able.
stumble
 
Life is a big long dance. We all stumble, sometimes we fall. We have parts of the routine that we’d rather skip, but it’s OUR dance. And each and every one of us has to dance our own steps.
 
I hope that exam season passes with as little stress as possible in your house. And remember that if your kids see you stressed, they stress. So even if you want to scream and tear your hair out, don’t.
 
Or at least wait until they’re in bed and then pour yourself a gin and scream in a pillow.
 
And the very best of luck to your minions.

You is My Baby

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You is three.
You is clever.
You is strong.
You is beautiful.
You is brave.
You is kind.
You is sensitive.
You is stubborn.
You is headstrong.
You is frightening.
You is craycray.
You is scary.
You is manipulative.
You is powerful.
You is exhausting.
You is expensive.
You is strong … strangely strong.
You is hilarious.
You is cute.
You is a monster…


But you is OUR monster.

You is Me and your Daddy combined and we have no one to blame but ourselves. 😂😂

We is exasperated and we is proud and we is always behind you and your glittery wee wellies.

Go Baby, go.
You’ve got a world to change.