What’s a normal teenager?
Meet the woman who understands how young people think in 2017
❛❛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."
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