The Korn Group recently published a study, The Truth About Teens and Tweens, that looks at the lives of young people today and how much they are sharing with their parents.

It seems that parents are the last to find out what their children are up to, fear of parental embarrassment and reactions means that many young people confide in their friends rather than seeking comfort, help and reassurance from their parents.

Teacher Michelle Mitchelle and author of What Teenage Girls Don’t Tell Their Parents says “They think their parents will panic and embarrass them by becoming too involved. Instead of deciding what they think should be done, parents need to ask their children ‘what do you want me to do?’.”

In everyday life many youngsters are coping with bullying, drugs, alcohol and the onslaught of the media who bombard them with sexualised images and tell them what they should look like and how they should act; all without any guidance or support from family members.

So how can parents decipher the grunts and shrugs made by their tweens and teenagers? How can they gain enough trust to be allowed entry into their secret world?

Bullying
For many young people bullying is an everyday occurrence, just a part of life that needs to be dealt with. It can be as minor as being ignored by some friends in the school yard or as nasty as online hate campaigns.

Maggie Hamilton, Generation Next speaker and author of What’s Happening to our Boys? says “it’s critical parents take any form of bullying seriously, and continue to monitor how their teen is tracking, as studies now suggest that the impact of peer abuse shares many of the same characteristics as that of other forms of abuse.”

Sex and relationships
Korn says tweens have changeable crushes while teens have relationships which may or may not become sexual. Teenagers don’t want to talk to their parents about the details of what goes on in their relationships.

Maggie Hamilton, Generation Next speaker and author of What’s Happening to our Girls? says “being prepared to talk about things that at first may feel awkward is important, it gives parents the chance to explain why boundaries matter, and why instant gratification and having sex simply to please others offers girls very little in return. Girls also need to feel parents respect them and trust them.

When parents are approachable and supportive, girls are more likely to talk to them if they have done something they regret or are unsure about.”

Smoking, drink and drugs
Most parents would be shocked by a recent report which found that 44.2% of 13-year-olds and 84.7% of 17-year-olds had consumed alcohol in the past year. And 8.4% of 13-year-olds and 31.4% of 17-year-olds had smoked. The Korn Group said drinking alcohol is expected at many teenage parties and marijuana is “easy” to get.

Paul Dillon from Drug and Alcohol Research and Training Australia, says “getting drunk is often viewed as a ‘badge of honour’. The challenge that faces parents and educators is to get the message across to young people that drinking for intoxication is not acceptable and is potentially life-threatening.”

Internet and social media
“Teenagers are addicted to social networking sites even though some of them realise it is having a negative impact on their life,” Korn said.

Cybersafety expert Susan McLean says “Kids need to appreciate and accept that just as in the real world, there are dangers in cyberspace. Remember that cyberspace is permanent. Everything that you write, post and send can be traced and will remain there forever. Do you want that comment, or pic from Saturday night’s party on the desk of the person conducting a job interview in 10 years time? “

“Kids need to think before they click and parents and teachers need to educate them to ensure that where possible, the correct decisions are made in the first instance, not after a moment of madness.”

Family
Although young people feign non interest, their family is actually very important to them and time spent with them is valued.

Andrew Fuller, clinical psychologist and Right2Childhood speaker says “When families function well people are allowed to be different and to be loved for those differences.”

“Having children who are strongly individual and who have a sense of who they are is a sign of good parenting. The problem may, of course be that they will then express their independent spirit in ways that you don’t like. The ideal is a mix between someone who preserves their own uniqueness and is able to work with others without becoming dictated to by them.”

Friends
Keeping up with who are your teenage daughter’s “best friends” can be almost a full-time job. “Having friends means being accepted, so teenagers will put up with a lot before leaving a group of friends. That can be difficult for parents,” said Mitchell.

Writer Helen Splarn. Editor Dr Ramesh Manocha.
Source: The Telegraph