Tweens, Teens & Beyond – New Linky Launch

Are you a parent to a tween, a teen or a young adult?  Do you have a story to tell about one or even an opinion to express on our tweens and teens today?  Are you a parent facing midlife or have you been through the crisis point and have some pearls of wisdom you would like to share?

If you have answered yes to any of these questions then Sharon at After The Playground, Nicky at Not Just The Three of Us and I would love to hear from you next week at the launch of our new Linky called Tweens, Teens & Beyond (#TweensTeensBeyond).

I started my blog nearly a year ago as my youngest made the transition from a tween to a teen and my eldest prepared to enter his last year at school.  As we all know parenting is not a perfect science and whilst we have all been teenagers, parenting one is a totally different ballgame.  There are many highs, some lows and lots of learning points along the way and as with the early years we all seek advice at some point on the journey.

Equally I have found that as my teens lives are changing so is mine as I embrace being 50 and all this fabulous fifth decade has to offer with the same enthusiasm as the last four.  Of course there will be a need to make some minor amendments along the way, but change is always good.

As well as turning to friends and family for advice, I love reading other bloggers' experiences, opinions and thoughts about this next fascinating and sometimes challenging stage of parenting as well as those giving best advice about facing the changes of midlife.

Sharon, Nicky and I are all at a similar stage in our parenting and personal journey and it was this that drew us together and provided the germ of the idea behind Tweens, Teens & Beyond.  This is a first linky for all three of us and over the last few weeks we have had our fair share of challenges as we have tried to pull this all together.

We all love participating in linkys and in preparing for the launch we are all hugely grateful for the behind-the-scenes advice we have received from some dear blogger friends along the way and a special shout out from me goes to Catie at Diary Of An Imperfect Mum who was very sweetly replying to my pleas for help on her son's 8th birthday.  That is what I call support!  Also thank you to all the lovely linky hosts who have agreed to us spreading the word via their link-ups.

We would love it if you can join us next week with a post about Tweens & Teens or one that looks beyond that stage, whether it is personal to you or not, a comment piece or even a reminiscence.   Our intention is for this linky to be as inclusive as possible and an area where we can support and learn from each other and hopefully it will also provide a useful reference point for those approaching the end of the primary years.

The linky will launch on Tuesday 7th March at 10.00 and run weekly thereafter.

Full details of the linky and its rules will be posted on 7th March.

If this sounds like something you would like to be part of and you would like us to tweet you a reminder about the launch please do leave your twitter handle in the comments below.

You can also follow us on our social media sites.

We look forward to hearing from you next week.



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18 & All Grown Up – A Birthday Tribute

18 years ago yesterday I started my maternity leave for my first born. I had four weeks to prepare. Well that was the plan anyway!  Less than 12 hours after packing up my kit, I was in labour and within 20, at 21.44pm my son arrived weighing just 2.9kg or 6.5 pounds as it was back then!

Like most first births that I know of, it was horrid and protracted, ending in an assisted delivery by forceps.  I don't think as a human being I have ever felt so violated as I did that day.  The only thing that saved me was the unswerving support of my ex-husband and the arrival of my younger sister.

She was due to turn 30 in mid March which was my son's real due date and had planned a big party to celebrate.  I had always said that it was unlikely I would be able to go.  Just as I was being wheeled into theatre, she arrived at the hospital having flown back early from a business trip and gave the mid-wife her party invitation to hand to me.  On it she had scrawled "You will be able to make it now.  Go girl!"  She has always had a knack of making me laugh in a crisis.

In all honesty my son was not a gorgeous baby,  but in the same way Hans Christian Andersen's ugly duckling transformed into a beautiful swan, he has matured into a handsome young man, with a smile that melts hearts.

Our journey together over the last 18 years has been tumultuous in stages, particularly in his early infancy when his father and I fought to save a relationship that spanned our teenage years and early adulthood. Divorce when you have a young child is tortuous because you so desperately want to do the right thing by your child and the family unit that you have created but there is also the instinct for self-preservation that demands you think of your own well-being.  Happiness is something we are all owed and one of the simplest ways to be happy is to let go of the things that make you sad.

As a single working mum my son kept me going each day and I don't mean just until it was time to clock off and get back for bath time, but in terms of giving me a much needed focus for my life at that time.  His well-being and the future I could offer him became my number one priority. I didn't want him to suffer as a result of his parents' separation.  I wanted more for him in every possible way and never wanted him to feel let down.

The relationship between a mother and her son has been held up for centuries as being crucial to the way a young man will grow up.  By my own admission I am quite strict, but hope that over the years I have also been fair.  I have always showered my son with love and affection and not just with physical displays.  I have always made sure he knows I am there for him no matter what and I hope in doing so, as my son takes that final step into adulthood today I have imparted an emotional intelligence that will ensure he is in tune with his own feelings and is as a result astute, empathetic and compassionate to others and above all loyal to those dear to him.

An incredibly shy child, as a young adult he remains quite reserved particularly in "new" company.  His preference is to sit back and observe, but once confident he is warm, engaging and great company.  He boasts a large circle of friends and has an ability to bring disparate groups together, reveling in the new relationships he has helped to foster.  This has helped him to gain a reputation as a good team leader and throughout both primary and secondary school has been head boy, school prefect and various sporting captains. He is diligent, hard working and extremely organised (almost to the point of being anal), kind, considerate and funny.

Of course life is not perfect and there are many things he does that infuriate me daily but as  those dear to me are prone to remind me, on a scale of 1 to 10 they are minor and common to most teenagers and as today is a day of celebration I am only focusing on the good bits.  A few months ago Alison at Mad House Mum asked for my contribution to her celebration of teenagers and today seems like a good day to remind myself of the great things about my eldest teenager.  So to my 18 year old son, I say I love it when you ....

  • walk up to me and just say "hug"
  • you laugh and your face lights up
  • worry constantly about everything
  • always look out for your little sister
  • make the house shake with your music before you go out
  • pretend you are not looking at yourself in the mirror (!)
  • become so focused on something it becomes an obsession
  • are so passionate about proving people wrong
  • tell me to calm down because it's not good for my health
  • tell me I don't look old - just like your mum

To anyone else that asks I say, all in all I adore his smile, welcome his hugs and admire his tenacity in life but more than anything else I love that he is my son and the young man he has become.


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Challenging The Perception of Pretty

"What do you think pretty is?"  This was the question a teacher at my daughter's school asked during a PSHE lesson last week.  The responses from the group of 13 year olds were varied but the one that provoked the greatest reaction was  "Blonde hair, clear skin, a thigh gap and a flat stomach!"

The debate that ensued around this one girl's interpretation of "pretty" was lively according to my daughter who on hearing the description felt affronted.  Firstly she is a redhead not a blonde and secondly she has battled with bouts of acne so always feels self conscious of her not so "clear skin" so a small part of her took this definition of "pretty" to heart and felt personally offended.  On a more general level she found her fellow classmate's description shallow at best, which of course all led to a lively debate over dinner that night as she challenged the perception of Barbie doll beauty as she called it.

"Pretty" is not a word you hear used very often nowadays but according to the Oxford Dictionary means "attractive in a delicate way without being truly beautiful". What is truly beautiful anyway? For me I have always relied upon the old adage that "beauty is in the eye of the beholder".  Every person is unique and beautiful in their own way and surely real beauty is more than skin deep.  I tell my daughter she is beautiful everyday because to me she is, but more so because she is inquisitive, clever, sensitive, thoughtful, hysterically funny and generous - I could go on....

The sad thing is that the pressure amongst teenage girls to pursue an idealised vision of pretty and to look and be a certain way is omnipresent.  My daughter is not overly hung up on her looks at the moment and would rather head off to browse the shelves in our local bookstore on a Saturday afternoon than the cosmetics counter at Superdrug.  But this is now, who knows what the future holds.

Apart from the peer pressure of being amidst girls that place such a value on the way they look there is also the indirect pressure exerted by the media to look a certain way, all of which combine to create a cauldron of issues surrounding body image for our young girls to navigate.

Last year there was a big media storm over the London Underground poster "Are you beach body ready?" as everyone castigated the advertiser's use of a genetically blessed young girl with the seemingly perfect bikini body.  

Originally a poster for Protein World, there was a huge public outcry as the poster promoting weight loss came under fire from some feminists and body image campaigners who branded it body-shaming.  Who were Protein World to decide what the perfect beach body was and why was a thin body a prerequisite for going to the beach anyway?  Amidst the general furore an internet prankster hit back with its own version of the poster featuring three curvaceous women and the caption "Yes.  We are beach body ready."

From a marketing perspective the campaign was heralded a huge success.  Not only had it captivated attention on an extensive scale, but it had also provoked a response and as such was described by Marketing magazine as "one of the most effective and innovative pieces of brand marketing in living memory".

It is exactly these kind of messages, however, that can be so easily misconstrued by our young girls at an age when they are just learning to be comfortable with themselves and their bodies.  Just as one person's perception of "pretty" is different from another's, so one person's understanding of these kind of messages can differ to another's too.  Take the image of the girl out of the Protein World poster and then the question becomes less offensive and thus less provocative.   Don't we all ask ourselves if we are ready for the beach every year whether we are a Size 0 or a Size 20?

Blonde, clear skin, a thigh gap and a flat stomach may be one person's ideal "pretty" body image but not another's, but sadly some will always strive for that idealised vision accentuated by clever marketing campaigns. We know of one family whose world has been turned upside down in the last few months as their 13 year old started dieting with a group of friends to get herself bikini ready for the summer holiday.  Devastatingly it all went too far and she returned to school after the summer transformed and battling anorexia.  After an extensive period in hospital she has returned to school, but not without consequences.  She cannot do any exercise and must eat frequently and at regular intervals under supervision.  She cannot concentrate for long periods and is easily tired.  The impact upon hers and her family's life is truly heartbreaking.

It is normal for teenagers to be conscious of their bodies and want to look great and lead a healthy lifestyle and I have written about this previously in relation to teenage boys, but there is a fine line between a positive and negative body image and the latter comes with anxiety and in some circumstances unfortunate consequences.  I am glad that schools encourage children to discuss these issues openly amongst themselves as it is only through conversation and debate that these unhealthy "pretty" perceptions can be challenged.

So what's a parent to do?  Well in a world where so much emphasis is placed upon the way we look, it is not surprising body image issues are rife among young adolescents and as parents I think we need to guide our young girls and boys through the madness and ensure they maintain a sensible and healthy perspective on their looks.


What do you think?  Let me know in the comments below.


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