Category Archives: Teenagers

“A Must for any Parent”

The “Parents and Teens” talk, by parenting expert and agony aunt Suzie Hayman, followed by Q and A, at St John’s School, Marlborough on 22nd October 2016, was a must for any parent with children about to embark on their teenage years, or indeed any parent already in the midst of this often challenging and turbulent time. I only wish I had heard these words of wisdom long ago, both from Suzie herself, and also the teenagers contributing to the discussion.

Suzie has many years of experience counselling families and couples, and is also an agony aunt, broadcaster and author of 30 books on families, but most noticeably Parenting Teens 22 Oct 2016her own experience as a stepmother. She is a warm and wise soul, who brought clarity and calm to this topic without denying the challenges involved.

Suzie starts from the core view that the teenager’s main task is to separate from his/her birth family, while our job as parents is to manage these shifting boundaries while passing control over to the teen. And no, she does not say this is easy. Her approach is practical and pragmatic, and she makes you feel you too could manage this. She gives helpful hints for how to relate to your child in a way that enhances communication,  and on how you might approach such thorny subjects as alcohol use and pornography. She entreats us to remember that a problem might actually be our own, rather than theirs, such as our own expectations or dreams being acted out. She never pretends to have all the answers but offers a framework to work from.

The ensuing discussion brought enlightening tips from the teens present, whose overriding message was “please, just listen to us”, since we might not have any idea what our child is experiencing, as well as “be available”, in other words sometimes we need to wait until they are ready to talk rather than rushing in with our own agenda.  The wide-ranging questions and discussions from the audience could easily have gone on past the allotted time.

This well-organised seminar in congenial surroundings will, I hope, be the first of many such events. Highly recommended!

By: Anne Hutson (parent)
7th November 2016






Help with the minefield of digital technology and teenagers

Having attended the talk ‘Parenting Teens’ given by Suzie Hayman at St John’s, Marlborough and organised by Wendy Bramham Therapy, I cannot recommend it more highly to parents/carers of teenagers and those soon to be parents/carers of teenagers.

Suzie Hayman presented the talk in an engaging and relaxed manner, explaining some of the ‘science’ behind teenagers, helping perplexed parents to understand what may be going on in the teenage brain, how their teenager may view the world and looking at how teenagers deal with change in their lives.  Suzie gave lots of practical advice and suggestions as how parents/carers can help their children (and their families) through this often turbulent period in their lives and the discussion session that followed the talk covered wide ranging topics including parenting in step-families, pornography, alcohol, technology, laying down house rules, dealing with conflicting house rules, and risky behaviour.

The talk was clear and easy to follow, supported by a power point presentation.  Suzie was very generous with both her time and resources, offering to provide all those who attended with copies of the presentation, free leaflets and answering questions fully not only during the formal session but also afterwards.  I will be keeping the presentation notes close at hand to refer to when faced with teenage challenges in the future!

Suzie has written various books on parenting and some of the titles were available for sale on the morning – I bought one and fully expect to buy more.  One of her most recent books is on the minefield of digital technology, a subject which worries me and many other parents of technology-savy teenagers

St John’s was, as always, a pleasant choice of venue.  The session took place in the Enterprise Suite, rather than the main theatre, and its more intimate size encouraged the open and wide-ranging discussion that followed on some sensitive issues.

Wendy added both a professional and personal touch to the morning from her perspective as a mother of teenage children and as a psychotherapist of over 20 years experience.  We were also joined by four, real live teenagers who generously gave up their Saturday mornings to offer some insight into their teenage world!  They participated in the discussion that followed Suzie’s talk and it was interesting to hear from them what they would like from us.  The message was loud and clear – space, support and no shouting.  There’s food for thought.

Thank you to Wendy for organising this highly relevant and useful talk – I would be very interested in attending similar talks in the future.  It was excellent value for money and if there is one thing that will remain with me from the morning it is that young children are loving, biddable puppies but teenagers are fiercely independent cats!

By: Sarah Giles (Parent), 27 October 2016


Parenting Teens – 22 October 2016 in Marlborough

Parenting Teens event.JPG

Wendy Bramham with Suzie Hayman

I was delighted with our extremely positive feedback following this event, which was attended by 75 people, mostly parents.  The average score for our speaker, Suzie Hayman, was an overwhelming 4.97 out of 5 from 68 forms! Congratulations and a big thank you to Suzie for her informal, practical style and huge knowledge and experience.

I was struck by how engaged people were, listening to Suzie’s pearls of wisdom and experience during her presentation which covered a range of topics including:

  • understanding this transitional stage of change and loss both for your child and for you;
  • how to listen and talk with your teenager using “I” statements and open questions;
  • brain changes which helps us to understand teens’ behaviour
  • top tips such as:

* understand this is a transition from child to apprentice adult; your teen needs to separate.  You are no longer their boss!

* Your task is to help them live their lives, not yours

* Show you care, are prepared to set some limits but trust them and don’t try to control them

* Don’t take it personally, but look at what is going on for you.  Look after yourself

The second half of the seminar was dedicated to questions, answers and discussion, and we were lucky enough to have four St John’s 6th formers present who were willing and brave enough to offer their own perspectives.  It was evident from the feedback forms how much the audience appreciated and valued their comments; and how confident and eloquent they were.  When asked what they wanted from their parents, their comments included:

  • support but also “space” to discover their own identity (not a version of their parents)
  • help to think things through for themselves, rather than being told what to do/think
  • less pressure, as there is already a lot of pressure within school
  • to continue to be told “I’m here if you want to talk” which they will remember and be comforted by (even if they don’t want to talk right now!)
  • less shouting; can we talk calmly and more objectively (less emotionally)?

Parents also wanted to know how to manage their teenagers’ use of digital devices; how to talk to their teens about sex and pornography;  step-families; and how to manage when other families have different rules from their own.

Suzie encouraged us to try to feel more comfortable discussing sex with our children.  Additionally, she suggested, we may consider lobbying our schools to put on educational sessions about “relationships, love and sex”, which focusses on the emotional side of sex within the context of relationship, rather than the biology of sex, as well as the dangers of learning about sex through pornography.

The general atmosphere was supportive and collaborative.  I think many of us were reassured that we are not alone; that parenting is challenging but that there is hope, and there are tools and tips!  There was a general consensus that people wanted more!  A number of people expressed interest in further seminars in smaller groups, which we will be happy to consider.

L-R: Briony Martin, Suzie Hayman, Wendy Bramham

L-R: Briony Martin, Suzie Hayman, Wendy Bramham

Thank you to all attendees for making it a constructive event, and for your generous feedback.  A summary of the feedback is below.  Additionally I wish to thank:

  • Sally Bere from St Johns
  • the four 6th formers (Abi, Dulcie, Steffie and Sabrina), and their teacher Tom Nicholls
  • my colleagues and helpers:  Michael Garreffa, Briony Martin, Jo Turner and Debbie Chapman,

Wendy Bramham
26 October 2016


Written Feedback following our event

From 67 feedback forms, the average scores are as follows:

  • “Speaker of the seminar”: 4.97 out of 5
  • “Helpfulness with parenting skills and tips”: 4.82 out of 5
  • “Overall assessment of event”:  4.69 out of 5

A selection of written comments:

“Everyone should hear this talk!”
“Very informative, helpful, producing good open discussions”
“It has been fantastic to involve 6 formers – thank you”
“I wish the session could have lasted longer!
“Teens were great, more of this!”
“Incredibly helpful with understanding problems and having a toolbox for constructive coping”
“Thought-provoking event, challenged my comfort zone of parenting! Excellent.”
“Very useful perspective on key issues”
“Extremely worthwhile.  Thank you”
“Really insightful – could have been twice as long”
“Suzie was brilliant.  Huge thanks”
“Excellent – so useful”
“Fabulous, very helpful, thank you”
“Excellent presentation and discussion session, found it extremely informative, thank you”
“1 minute timer for talking and listening – great tip, I will use”

Self-harm: ‘When I hurt, I cut…’

self-harmSelf-harm accounts for over 24,000 hospital admissions every year¹ and it is estimated that 1 in 12 children self-harm². Rates in the UK are some of the highest in Europe³ but – because self-harm is, by its very nature, a private activity and is often kept secret and thus remains unreported – these statistics may be just the tip of the iceberg.

Self-harm is generally thought of to include violent acts to the self – specifically deliberately cutting, hitting, burning, injecting or imbibing potentially dangerous objects or substances, hair pulling, eating disorders etc. Smoking and drinking, over or under-exercising, engaging in risky sporting/driving/sexual behaviour, cosmetic surgery, tattooing and piercing may also be added to the list – although some may not consider many of behaviours in the second list to be harmful. Is eating a doughnut after a difficult meeting at work an act of self-harm or of self-care?

Self-harm is on the increase, and many wonder at the “contagious” aspect of the behavior – is it a way of crying out for help or attention; an act to externally express inner rage; a form of self-punishment; or just a way of “belonging” to a particular group?

Whilst working with a self-harming client can be very distressing, Lynn Martin references many examples of clients who, she feels, were kept alive by their self-harm(4). She refers to “anti-suicide” element of the behaviour, and explains that, for some, self-harm actually allows them to feel that they are in control of their lives. The endorphins, which are released into the blood stream after a puncture to the skin, can serve to somehow “re-boot” the depressed, withdrawn client who has lost touch with her world. Similarly, the pain of the wound can highlight that it hurts “here” rather than just “inside”.

As therapists, it is important that we do not allow any personal shock to spill out when working with a self-harming client. Showing concern for the wounds, and making sure that they are kept clean; ensuring, too, that the client is secure in the fact that you see them behind their pain; communicating that it is alright to talk about the self-harm; respecting the fact that the client is, more often than not, trying to survive and not to die; and reassuring the client that you will not try to steal from them their coping mechanism until they themselves feel safe enough to live without it – all these sort of responses are seen as being the most helpful to the truly distressed and pained client.

Whatever the reasons or the resolutions for the self-harming individual, as therapists we need to be aware of the width and prevalence of this behavior. We need, too, to look after ourselves whilst working with self-harming clients by exploring, in supervision, the myriad of reactions that this particularly violent representation of pain can produce in us.

By: Annabel Murray, Counsellor, June 2015

1 Samaritans & Centre for Suicide, 2002
2 Talking Taboos, 2012
3 NICE 2002
(4) Lynn Martin, Therapy Today, July 2013

Self-help Information about self-harm

What leads a person to self-harm?

Self-harming behaviours, such as cutting, scratching and hitting oneself, are often a physical way to deal with very painful psychological experiences and feelings of distress and isolation. Self harm can arise for all sorts of reasons such as grief, abuse, trauma, fear, loss and other feelings that are overwhelming. These may be from early childhood or in the present, or they may follow an incident that makes a person angry, frustrated or disappointed.

There is usually mounting tension followed by a compulsion or an impulsive need to self-harm. Some people dissociate (separate themselves so that they are not fully aware of their behaviour) from their mental and physical pain during the act of self-harm. Because others may see acts of self-harm as “deliberate”, unsympathetic responses can be a consequence. However, quite often a person is not very conscious of their reasons for self-harming and does not feel in control when they do it.

There are various forms of self harm, including cutting with a razor or knife, burning, hitting or banging your head, or over-dosing when it’s not life-threatening. It is often done in secret.

Self-harm has hidden short-term benefits for the person harming. These can include:

  • Release of emotions – getting them “out” can bring relief and decrease in tension
  • Making the mental pain feel real (akin to crying without tears, when the person can’t externalise their feelings)
  • Giving a distraction from, or a sense of pause, from the mental pain
  • Providing a way of telling others how bad you feel
  • Punishing the self for self-hatred and guilt

How does therapy help?

  • learning to manage feelings and difficulties in healthier ways, such as talking
  • exploring and understanding the circumstances in which the self-harm arises
  • understanding the unconscious conflicts and buried emotions underneath the acts of self harm
  •  developing a capacity to contain, tolerate and think about distress

By: Wendy Bramham, July 2013

Seek immediate help for any serious injury or overdose – with your GP, ambulance or A&E.

Thoughts from the front-line
We asked a few teenagers to tell us in their own words how they would have liked their parents to support or help them.   The purpose of this exercise was to inform and assist parents/guardians who may be unsure of how to help their child.  Comments remain anonymous to protect identity.
Girls aged 14 and 15 told us:
“Further criticism is definitely something NOT to do, because most likely that is what caused the person to self-harm in the first place.”
“Parents shouldn’t pretend they understand, that is one of the most frustrating things for people in this situation. Perhaps saying they are trying to understand would be a better way.”
“Friends can play a large part in preventing further harm… I would get the parents to talk to their child’s friends to see if they have noticed anything.. make it subtle though!”

Girls aged 17 told us:

“For me, my parents couldn’t have really done anything to help me, my mum made me keep my door open at night and took away my razors, making me use hair removal cream instead.  But that didn’t stop me and it wouldn’t stop anyone from doing it.  There’s no way parents can stop it physically in all honesty.   For me it was my own personal feelings of guilt and these weren’t gonna stop no matter how much my mum and dad tried to help.  But the situation would’ve been a lot better if my mum had understood when I told her.  She didn’t say anything and I feel like she didn’t understand why I did it.  Maybe she thought it was some sort of cry for attention, but it wasn’t (I’d been hiding it for one and a half years). If she was more aware of the reasons why people do it, and maybe just gave me a hug, told me I would be okay, comforted me when I was upset about anything, then maybe it would have stopped me doing it sooner.  But instead she never mentioned it to me, only tried to physically prevent me from doing it, not mentally”.  FW

“What might have helped would be if I was not made to feel it was my fault or that I was a drama queen. Guilt is a key contributor to my issues and I was made to feel guilty for self-harming.  I wanted my parents to understand that I wasn’t doing it because I hated them.  I knew they would be heartbroken if I died, but when you’re mentally ‘effed up’ you don’t see it that way, and the selfishness that depression produces isn’t controllable.  Self-harm isn’t always slitting your wrists.  It can be pinching yourself under the table all lesson, or forcing your mind through horrible thoughts (emotional self-harm is a huge thing).  Yes, we know we shouldn’t do it, we know it is bad for us, we know it’s selfish.  Telling us this just makes us feel guilty, which makes us feel crapper which makes us more likely to lose control and do it again.  When you get a cold or even cancer you don’t blame yourself or anyone else; you just look for a way to fix it.  Sometimes we self-harm because it is the only way to feel alive.  Yet, blaming the child for feeling so low is not healthy and will not make them forthcoming with reasons why.”  MA
From the above stories, it is clear that it is helpful if parents/carers/relatives can try to understand the emotional distress underlying any self-harm behaviour in their child.    It may be important for the parent to seek their own support, such as counselling, to cope better with this alarming situation.  Wendy Bramham Therapy offers a range of therapists in Newbury & Marlborough who are qualified and experienced in helping with these issues, so please don’t hesitate to contact us.  
Wendy Bramham
July 2015