How to get teenagers to lis­ten

Suzanne Franks is the au­thor of a new book of ad­vice for par­ents of teenage chil­dren. She talks to Rachel Fletcher

The Jewish Chronicle - - FEATURES -

IF SOME­ONE HAS told you lately that you are an op­pres­sive taskmas­ter with no un­der­stand­ing of the world and who reg­u­larly ru­ins lives, the chances are that you have teenage chil­dren. Clin­i­cal psy­chol­o­gist Tony Wolf and Suzanne Franks, writer and mother of two teenage chil­dren, have got to­gether to ad­vise on how to par­ent the mod­ern ado­les­cent. Their book, Get Out of My Life… But First Take Me and Alex Into Town, at­tempts to ex­plain why teenagers be­have the way they do us­ing real-life case stud­ies, and cov­er­ing is­sues such as sin­gle par­ents, sui­cide, drugs and teenage sex.

Franks says: “We live in a less def­er­en­tial so­ci­ety. If you talk to peo­ple of my gen­er­a­tion, the things we would not dare say to our par­ents are now com­mon­place.”

Ac­cord­ing to Franks, the teenage stage lasts longer than it used to. “Ado­les­cence starts ear­lier than it did, with heavy mar­ket­ing of clothes and mu­sic to girls of nine and 10. And it goes on for longer — peo­ple are older now be­fore they settle down.”

It helps to un­der­stand the psy­chol­ogy of ado­les­cence. The book ex­plains the con­flict be­tween the “baby self”, which wants to cling to the nur­tur­ing and de­pen­dence familiar from child­hood, and the de­vel­op­ing urge for in­de­pen­dence. The baby self, and the child­ish be­hav­iour that goes with it, says Franks, is re­spon­si­ble for most of the day-to-day rows par­ents have with their teenagers.

Mod­ern tech­nol­ogy has made par­ent­ing teenagers more com­pli­cated, she notes. “Even at home, the world is con­tin­u­ally in con­tact with your teenager,” she say. “Mo­bile phones and com­put­ers al­low them to so­cialise on­line.” To avoid un­wel­come dis­trac­tions, Franks sug­gests keep­ing the com­puter in a com­mu­nal area, or im­pos­ing a reg­u­lar study pe­riod that is strictly im­posed, even if there is no home­work to do.

Much of the se­cret of deal­ing with ado­les­cents is learn­ing to pick your bat­tles. “Some­times, you must have a men­tal im­age of talk­ing to a tod­dler, per­haps when they’re call­ing you names. See it as the same as a tod­dler tantrum, in­stead of get­ting into a sub­sidiary fight about the name-call­ing. Not pro­long­ing the ar­gu­ment is re­ally im­por­tant.” But fight for the big things. “Cur­fews, be­ing safe, not get­ting into cars with drunk driv­ers — that’s worth putting all your guns into bat­tle for.”

At the end of it, par­ents should re­sign them­selves to the fact that at times their chil­dren will drive them mad. “The mes­sage is to hang in there,” says Franks.

“If you had a good re­la­tion­ship be­fore and you set pa­ram­e­ters, they will come back to you. If you can with­draw and not get so en­meshed in it, it will come to an end.” Get Out of My Life… But First Take Me and Alex Into Town is pub­lished by Profile Books at £8.99

Par­ents of teenagers should learn to pick their bat­tles — ig­nore the name-call­ing and fo­cus on the big is­sues

Suzanne Franks: hints for har­mony

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.