Good time to get closer to your teens: coach

Kapi-Mana News - - NEWS FEATURE - By KARO­LINE TUCKEY

Welling­ton teen ad­vo­cate and author Eva Maria says Christ­mas is the per­fect time to get closer to your teenagers – and she has some ad­vice for the silly sea­son.

‘‘Teens are look­ing for­ward to that fam­ily time, but they are not go­ing to ask for it. You’d never ad­mit it . . . but at a sub­con­scious as­pect you need to re­con­nect with fam­ily.’’

How­ever, the ball is in the par­ents’ court, she stresses, and if teens aren’t aware of their par­ents’ ex­pec­ta­tions for the hol­i­days early then they may start mak­ing other plans.

‘‘It’s a good time to do stuff to­gether. It’s just about work­ing out what you are go­ing to do as a fam­ily, and mak­ing it clear; say to them ‘let’s do some­thing for three days in a row – let’s go camp­ing’, or some­thing.’’

Get teens in­volved by giv­ing them re­spon­si­bil­ity for hol­i­day tasks, like help­ing to or­gan­ise the camp­ing trip or mak­ing brunch. This in­volves them and keeps them busy, says Eva Maria – and should re­duce the work­load for par­ents.

When it comes to Christ­mas spend­ing, shar­ing the re­al­i­ties of the bud­get is a good way to bring par­ents and teens ex­pec­ta­tions closer to­gether for hol­i­day ac­tiv­i­ties and Christ­mas present buy­ing, and per­haps find­ing some creative ways to stretch it fur­ther.

Eva Maria rec­om­mends be­ing open about how much money there is to spend and ask­ing what your chil­dren want.

‘‘Maybe you can come up with a plan to put $200 to­wards the iphone 4 and come up with a plan for them to save up for it, so de­cide to­gether how you are go­ing to get it,’’ she says.

Teenagers may also be help­ful find­ing dis­count web­sites or par­al­lel im­porters with re­duced prices.

The dif­fer­ent gen­er­a­tional ap­proaches to tech­nol­ogy are a com­mon area of con­flict, she says.

‘‘One of the big­gest com­plaints that I’ve been get­ting from the 12 to 17 year-old age group is their par­ents are ban­ning their cell­phones dur­ing the Christ­mas hol­i­days.’’

Eva Maria be­lieves many par­ents are mis­tak­enly ban­ning tech­nol­ogy to give teens time to re­lax be­cause for them tech­nol­ogy is a cause of stress, which is not the case for young peo­ple.

Par­ents of­ten want to put away the gad­gets so the fam­ily can spend time to­gether, but don’t nec­es­sar­ily ex­plain this well.

Teens will ap­pre­ci­ate the ges­ture if par­ents make an ef­fort to bridge the tech­nol­ogy di­vide and take an in­ter­est in what they are in­volved in, she says.

‘‘Ask them if they have seen any cool stuff on the in­ter­net, then at least you’ll know what they’re talk­ing about.

‘‘I showed my mum the ‘Nek Minute’ video, and she re­ally didn’t un­der­stand it, but it was re­ally cool to show it to her be­cause it’s so funny.’’

Eva Maria says teens im­mersed in tech­nol­ogy are not nec­es­sar­ily a con­cern. With spare time ado­les­cents will grav­i­tate to the pas­times that help them destress and re­lax; for some this will be go­ing to the beach with friends, for oth­ers it will be stay­ing at home lis­ten­ing to their ipod all day.

‘‘It’s im­por­tant to have that free time to . . . do your own thing, but if you feel like they are fall­ing into a pit of do­ing noth­ing, maybe you could have that talk about what they want to do with their hol­i­days.’’

For teens aged 15 and up, talk­ing to­gether about the op­tion of sum­mer hol­i­day jobs can open up new pos­si­bil­i­ties for them, she says.

‘‘It’s about plan­ning that idea with them, giv­ing them those op­tions and ask­ing them ‘ have you thought about work­ing this sum­mer?’

‘‘Even a few hours a day would add up – ask them: do they think they are go­ing to be busy 24 hours a day?’’

Eva Maria says she has worked dur­ing the Christ­mas hol­i­days since she was about 15 and the ex­pe­ri­ence and ben­e­fits have been well worth giv­ing up some spare time.

Jobs in re­tail and hos­pi­tal­ity meant new friends, build­ing good com­mu­ni­ca­tion skills, hav­ing some­thing to add to her CV and, of course, get­ting paid.

‘‘You think about what you’d be do­ing in­stead – I’d just be stay­ing at home, but in­stead you can earn money to spend to do things like go to the movies with­out hav­ing to bor­row money or not go be­cause you can’t af­ford it.’’

Like most re­la­tion­ships ex­perts, Eva Maria stresses that good com­mu­ni­ca­tion is key to re­la­tion­ships with teenagers.

Ide­ally the Christ­mas hol­i­days pro­vide us with time to con­cen­trate on fam­ily, clear the air of any con­flicts that have built up dur­ing the year, share fun times and strengthen bonds, she says.

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