What’s a nor­mal teenager?

Meet the woman who un­der­stands how young peo­ple think in 2017

QT Magazine - - PARENTING & RELATIONSHPS - DAR­REN HALLESY

❛❛I think there are lots of is­sues that teenagers deal with that the par­ents did too. The key dif­fer­ence now though, is that it is all in­ter­play­ing with so­cial media. In­ter­act­ing the online life of a teenager changes the dy­nam­ics.

— Michelle Mitchell

IF there’s one thing that any par­ent will tell you, it’s that the teenage years make those first six weeks of sleep­less nights seem like a hol­i­day in the sun.

Today, teenagers are ob­sessed with so­cial media and their com­mu­ni­ca­tion skills are done mostly through a screen.

This is the ‘new’ nor­mal, ac­cord­ing to one of Aus­tralia’s fore­most ex­perts on rais­ing teenagers.

In her new book Par­ent­ing Teenage Girls In An Age Of a New Nor­mal, Michelle Mitchell helps par­ents to un­der­stand that the world they live in vastly dif­fer­ent to the one their par­ents grew up in.

Teenagers today have never known a world with the in­ter­net, smart­phones and so­cial media. Wel­come to the new ‘nor­mal’.

“I think there are lots of is­sues that teenagers deal with that the par­ents did too,” Michelle said. “The key dif­fer­ence now though, is that it is all in­ter­play­ing with so­cial media. In­ter­act­ing the online life of a teenager changes the dy­nam­ics.

“I’ve been in this in­dus­try for over 18 years now and the last five years have changed in a way that I don’t think they’ll ever go back. Par­ents are ask­ing me ques­tions about things that have never been is­sues till now and I think the whole sec­tor has changed.

“The big­gest change is that the worst things are not hap­pen­ing to the worst fam­i­lies, post­codes used to dic­tate where the bad kids came from, but now no­body is ex­empt.”

Michelle was in­spired to write this new book af­ter a meet­ing with a fam­ily who were hav­ing is­sues with their daugh­ter, as the for­mer teacher ex­plains.

“I sat with this fam­ily late into the night. They talked about things that they thought were unique to them, and truth is I’d had six ap­point­ments that day that seemed the same. The dad leaned across the ta­ble and said to me ‘Michelle, is this nor­mal?’

“I told him it was per­fectly nor­mal. That got me think­ing, and this book is to help peo­ple get over the line, and in there are 40 strate­gies that ev­ery par­ent can use along with a snap­shot of the world that teens live in now.

“For ex­am­ple, with 82% of kids on so­cial media now, par­ents look at that stat and they go white. They didn’t sign up for this. Most kids have three so­cial media ac­counts and spend­ing on av­er­age 53 hours a week look­ing at a screen. We as par­ents aren’t the only voice talk­ing to teens now… in their pocket are video clips, blogs and In­sta­gram giv­ing them in­flu­ences on sex­u­al­ity, body image and all these things that kids use to re­late to each other.”

For par­ents who are go­ing through the tough times with their teenager, the best ad­vice Michelle gives is to sim­ply keep go­ing.

“Stick with it is the best ad­vice I can give. Nigel Latta (the man who wrote The Po­lit­i­cally In­cor­rect Guide To Teenagers) once said that ‘the best cure for 13 is 14, and the best cure for 14 is 15’.

“It’s im­por­tant to recog­nise that there are two ma­jor ‘speed bump’ mo­ments in their lives. The first is pu­berty and then leav­ing school.

“It’s hard to see the light at the end of the tun­nel when kids are only giv­ing neg­a­tive or no feed­back,” she said. “The more you in­vest time-wise, and help them with their ups and

downs, the bet­ter it will be. Hav­ing a re­la­tion­ship with your kids is ev­ery­thing.

"It's so im­por­tant that you know you're not alone. Peo­ple see othe fam­i­lies on Face­book all smil­ing, and hav­ing fun at the beach. What they don't show is the ar­gu­ing about get­ting into the car for 20 min­utes be­fore­hand. This is nor­mal, and once peo­ple re­alise their teenager is rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the new nor­mal, you'll re­alise you're not alone."

PHOTOS: CON­TRIB­UTED

PHOTO: CON­TRIB­UTED

PRAC­TI­CAL AD­VICE: Michelle is a reg­u­lar speaker around the coun­try.

Michelle will be of­fer­ing par­ent­ing ad­vice for Ip­swich in each is­sue of the QT Magazine. Check out her first col­umn in the Sum­mer edi­tion of QT Magazine

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.