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 her 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