Cork parent coach: It's never too late to change the way you parent

Parenting expert and teen coach EILEEN KEANE HALY outlines the importance of communication with our teenage children
Cork parent coach: It's never too late to change the way you parent

Parenting coach and teen mentor, Eileen Keane Haly.

LET'S start 2022 communicating as much as possible with our kids. It has been a really tough time for so many but especially tough for our kids.

I have worked with over 300 teens over the past 3 months and I want to share a few things that came up over and over again. These are areas the teens are struggling with, things they want to change - so I thought, why not share this information with parents and try to get things started! It is never too late to make a change in our parenting ways, my kids are 24,23,20 and 17 and I am still making changes.

Communication - ‘The single biggest problem with communication, is the illusion that it has taken place’.

There are so many different ways to communicate with our kids;

body language - speaking - writing - texting, what way we are communicating does not matter as long as communication is taking place.

I would like to take this opportunity to share with you some of the replies these teenagers gave me to the question below. I strongly believe it might help a lot of you to reconnect or strengthen the connection you already have, with your teen. There is no-one more important in their lives than you, their parent. I know it does not always feel like that, but it is true. Over the teenage years you will be tested and they will be tested but, remember, you will always be their parent and they will always be your child, they will always love you and need you as you will always love and need them - communication is key.

Question:

“If you could ask your parents to understand a few things about being a teenager today, what would they be’?

- “School can be very tiring and we need time to relax - just because I’m in my room doesn’t mean I’m doing anything wrong” I do hear this a lot. I run a lot of workshops in schools, and school is a busy place. Students go from class to class for 7 hours, with a short break in the morning and a short lunch break. During Covid the addition of mask wearing has not helped. 

In any school today there are many issues kids could have - they may be struggling in certain subjects, they may feel ‘less than’ because academia is not one of their strengths (this one can be especially difficult and very unfair), they may have friendship issues, they may not have real friends and they could be very lonely in school, the list is endless. 

I do think we need to be aware that our kids are growing up in a much more difficult time to us, social media does not help, just try to let them know you understand that things are not always easy and you understand that they need ‘down time’. 

Our kids very often think we have no idea what they are going through but honestly in my experience many of us have struggled with the very same things I have listed above. Try sharing your experiences with them, it will help them to see you do understand more that they think you do.

- “I like my own company - I like reading in my room alone - that does not mean there is something wrong with me” Privacy is always a big deal with this age group. They are growing up, they want to be treated like a grown up. You and I both know that they are still kids but I think we need to play clever here.

Give them their space when it is needed, give them time in their rooms - I think if we remember back to this age, we all liked our privacy. Keep your battles for things that really matter or you will sound like a broken record. If privacy is really important to them, we do need to acknowledge this. Boundaries and rules need to change as our kids grow up, this is one area that needs a dis- cussion. Ask your teen what works for them, if you have a problem with that, explain why and try to come up with a compromise. That is communication at its best.

- “I wish they could understand the pressure around exams and friends can be a real strug- gle for me.” I cannot emphasise enough the issue around exams & friendships. Our kids are growing up in a very academic school system. Does this system suit all kids? Absolutely not. It is ridiculous to think this narrow system will cater to all of our kids strengths. I am so upset when I see kids feel- ing ‘less than’ because academia is not on of their strengths. Our kids can have so many different strengths, they may be musical, artistic, sporty, computer wizzes, great cooks, talented with hair & beauty, the list goes on and on. Don’t allow your kids to be judged by academia alone, it is just not fair.

When it comes too friendships we do need to be very understanding. Friends play a huge role in teenagers lives. If something goes wrong with a friend or friend group, their worlds can fall apart.

Try to listen (without comment) if they do come to you. Let them speak and get it all out, I make a deal with myself - not to open my mouth until they have finished speaking. (it really helps!) Some- times they just need to be heard and feel you understand and care - a hug can go a long way.

- “Sometimes Im socially drained and just don’t want to talk - Im not being rude” At times all parents may feel exhausted and drained, our kids do too. There are times when all they need is a bit of peace and quiet, a bit of space and privacy. There is a time for questions and there is a time for quiet. If you feel you teen seems tired, give them a bit of space. Maybe ask them these 3 questions;

Do you want to talk? Do you want space? Do you want advice? Let them tell you what they need.

Honestly these 3 questions can really help. Kids need to acknowledge what they want and need too, by asking these questions you put it back to them to let you know what they need. This one is worth trying!

- “I need some freedom, I need to be allowed to meet my friends Why can’t they under- stand not all teenagers are up to no good. Why can’t they trust me.” I cannot emphasis the importance of trust. My motto has always been “Trust them until they give you a reason not to.” Why are we at times so fast to presume the worst of our kids? So many teens I work with really struggle with this one. The majority of teens, in my opinion, are wonderful human beings, trying to find their way, trying to get to know themselves, trying to be happy. Will they make mistakes along the way? Of course they will, this is called growing up. How can they learn if they do not make mistakes. We really do need to trust them until they give us a reason not to. Regardless of other peoples opinions, regardless of older siblings behaviour, regardless of advice from friends and family, you know your kids best, do give them that trust. Do they not deserve it? I have found the children who know they are trusted are very unlikely to break that trust, the children who know they are not trusted will very often need to break trust because they are being held too tightly, they are not given the age appropriate freedom to grown and expand as an individual person.

Talk to them, let them know your fears but do give them the benefit of the doubt here, you won’t regret it.

Finally, communication with kids is a two way street, we need to communicate with them too. We need to let them know if we have had a tough day, if we are struggling with something, if we are exhausted - let them know. So often we take our frustrations out on our kids when it really is nothing to do with them. Thats just not fair. If you say something you regret and you know they did not deserve, be big enough to say ‘sorry’.

Takeaway Tips 

• Always keep the lines of communication open.

• Remember a lot of kids’ outbursts are nothing to do with you and everything to do with what they may be dealing with at the time.

• Be careful how you react to their issues and problems. Keep an open mind and remember what you may have been dealing with when you were their age.

• Kids need a trusted adult they can open up to. Trust is a huge part of any relationship. They need to know they can trust you as much as you need to know you can trust them.

• If you communicate negatively with your child unnecessarily (as we will all do), be big enough to say sorry.

“One day your child will make a mistake or a bad choice and run to you instead of away from you. In that moment you will know the immense value of picking and choosing your battles with your child.”

About the author:

Eileen Keane Haly, is the Director of jumpstartyourconfidence.com and author of The Parent. Eileen is a qualified Parent Coach, Kids Confidence Coach and Teenage Mentor, with a background in child psychology.

Most of her professional life has been spent gathering information about how our younger generation work, how they deal with difficult situations, how social media is affecting them socially and emotionally, how their school life, social life and home life impact on their everyday experiences. She has recently published her first parenting book called The Parent which can be purchased on her website www.jumpstartyourconfidence.com.

You can also follow Eileen on her Instagram page jumpstartyourconfidenccork and Facebook page.

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