Another damning report from UNICEF ranks the UK 16th out of 29 developed countries for overall child wellbeing. We know we cannot rely on the Government to change things for our children so it’s up to us – every parent. The problem is parents today need new skills to support their children and teens in today’s environment.
Support for Parents to Teach Children and Teens to Cope
Our children and teens are facing unprecedented rates of change in technology, communication, population dynamics and culture. How are we going to teach them to cope? Parents need help and there is no stigma in asking for support.
I’ve been working with families for 10 years and it has never ceased to amaze me how sensitive children and teens are to our feelings and emotions. You probably know how feeling the energy of someone being angry makes you want to step back?
Children and Teens May Not be Equipped to Cope with Adult Emotions
Today’s children and teens are incredibly sensitive to the emotions of people around them – they are like barometers. And, from their perspective, when they sense that you are stressed or unhappy, they feel responsible and want to make things better for you. But they may not have the emotional resilience and communication and emotional skills to make their point.
Our Children and Teens Want us to be Authentic
The causes of your stress or unhappiness may be nothing to do with them. But your children or teens don’t know that. You may be doing the best you can to shield them from what’s going on, but they can feel your discomfort. When they ask you what’s the matter and you say “nothing”, they can sense you are not telling the truth and not being authentic. And this can often drive them to throw a wobbler. This might turn into a full-blown tantrum or they may just storm out of the room shouting, “you don’t understand me”.
By protecting your children and teens in this way you are confusing them with mixed messages. This can have a detrimental effect on their self-esteem and confidence. Because what they are feeling/sensing doesn’t match with what they’re being told, they start to doubt themselves. If this goes on too long, they lose confidence in themselves and start to ‘act up’. That’s when parents can get frustrated and try, in vain, to control their behaviour.
Influence Children and Teens Positively – Listen, Value and Respect
When you accept you don’t have control over your children or teens – the best we can do is influence them positively – you are starting to create a platform of negotiation and going forward together. HOW we influence our children and teens depends on the quality of the relationship we have with them and the way we behave. Knowing how to develop a high-quality relationship is what makes parenting such an important skill. Children and teens feel they are not listened to, valued or respected. It’s true, too, that many adults feel the same about children – but we have to accept that it’s up to us, as adults, to change things.
What will you do today to change your relationship with your children and teens?