How Do We Build Our Teenage Girls’ Self-Esteem?

Has your daughter ever called herself ugly?  If so how did you react?  Did you - like me - respond with a sharp intake of breath and a vehement "No you are not!"?

At the time of this shock announcement from my daughter I was in Paris on a girls trip, basking in the early evening sun, glass of wine in hand, overlooking the courtyard of the Louvre, after an afternoon touring the Dior Exhibition. My happiness boxes at the time were well and truly ticked.

The call started innocently enough with general chit chat about school, her mates, her test scores, hockey practice and then bam! Out of nowhere "Mum I'm so ugly.  It'not fair. Being a teenager really sucks!"

Only six months ago she had challenged the perception of pretty described by her classmates, dismissing it as no more than the stuff of barbie doll dreams and flying the flag for being an individual not a type; championing the value of personality over beauty.  Maybe as a result of this I had rested on my laurels too much, confident that she was well rounded and as such had missed some vital signs along the way.

My response was met with the retort "You are my mother, you have to say that!" As mothers we all want our children to be happy and that means shouldering their anxieties too when they come along.  I had spent 14 years trying to bring up a confident young lady, who I hoped would embark on this final stage of her journey to adulthood feeling good about herself.  Everyone praises her outward social confidence but if she felt like this inside had I failed?  UCL's recent Millenium Cohort Study revealed that a quarter of 14-year old girls are depressed.  Did this episode make my daughter one of them?

My maternal heart strings had been pulled and right then all I wanted was to see her beautiful face, her wide grin, give her a big hug and remove this "ugly" word from her list of personal adjectives.  But until I returned home, words were all I had at my disposal.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder

Ugly like hate is a strong word, reserved for extreme circumstances. There are those that argue if beauty is in the eye of the beholder then ugly must be too.  It is like a good bottle of wine, all a question of personal taste and what one person finds beautiful or ugly will be different to the next.

This is not, however, about defining what is ugly but rather pinpointing what we as mothers of teenage girls can do to boost their self-esteem.  A strong sense of self gives them the emotional scaffolding they need to handle these moments of self-doubt and criticism.  No-one had called my daughter ugly, just herself and even if it is just the once that is enough.

Beauty and appearance are thorny issues when raising girls.  Our girls are vulnerable.  All it takes is one throw away comment at the wrong time and their sense of self-worth can become quickly wrapped up in this  body image nightmare, which even if they don't come to it until later, is still an issue to be confronted, not trivialised or ignored.

Dove's Self-Esteem Project (DSEP) is committed to helping young girls as well as women have a healthy and positive relationship with the way they look.  Part of this is their Uniquely Me programme which gives parents heaps of practical advice and activities to help their daughters remove the emphasis on looks and focus on their inner "me" to boost their confidence.

So what can we do as parents?

  • Model a healthy self-image.  Therapist Michele Kambolis says “Our words and actions have a powerful impact on our children.”  If we as mothers adopt a self-critical approach we risk our daughters following suit.
  • Praise them not only about their looks but for their effort.  Saying “I really like the way you put your outfit together” instead of “You look gorgeous”, puts the focus on their effort being the most important element, not the end result.
  • Don't under-estimate the significance of fathers.  Daughters look to their fathers for assurance, guidance and approval.  In her book Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters Meg Meeker argues that a father has a valuable role to play in in guiding his daughter through a potentially toxic culture.  I was glad my daughter had her father whilst I was away, they have a strong bond and he was quick to intervene.
  • Congratulate them on all their achievements and don't forget to praise their imperfections as well. Remind them that life is not perfect all of the time and mistakes and disappointments provide valuable life lessons too.

Alison Bean, a fellow mother of teenagers, counsellor and psychotherapist had this advice when I asked her:

"As a mother the most important thing to remember is to communicate with our children. Encourage them to talk about how they feel, and why they feel ugly or dislike themselves. Don't dismiss their negative thoughts. This may be hard to hear at first, and all you want to do is cry out " you're beautiful to me inside and out" but their feelings are real to them and need to be acknowledged. As parents we need to make a conscious effort to balance our own compliments to them and try to direct our praise away from just their appearance and focus on the things they are good at; sports they play, art or creative work they excel in, musical instruments they play. Furthermore encourage them to spend more time with people they feel happy with, family members or close friends who don't constantly judge. This will help them to feel better about themselves, which in turn increases their self esteem and self worth."

In our family, we advocate a philosophy of sharing which I hope allows our teenagers to express their concerns, but more importantly gives us the opportunity to step in and provide support before an issue manifests itself into something bigger.  Our teenagers need to know that we are on their side as parents and nothing is more valuable than unconditional love for those moments when their confidence takes a knock.

 

I would love to hear from you if you have had a similar experience or have some thoughts to share on building self-esteem.  

 

 

 Mum Muddling Through DIY Daddy

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Students Spend Nearly £400 In Freshers’ Week

How much is Freshers' Week costing your teen?  Research  I read this week shows that students across the UK can spend around £400 in Freshers' Week.  Put this in the context of the average annual student maintenance loan of £1500 and the reality of the maths is scary.

As the mother to a Fresher myself this year, I know first hand the financial pressures involved and whilst staggering, sadly this figure does not surprise me.  What does surprise me is that the biggest spending city according to the research isn't London but Edinburgh, with past and present students spending an average of £426 during Freshers' Week and Bristol students spending the least at £334.

Tuition fees and accommodation costs aside, before even setting foot on campus for Freshers' Week, students have numerous additional start up expenses including insurance, the TV licence fee, access to the university internet, a student rail card and of course the all important books.  Yes of course some of these costs span generations and had to be paid in my university days, but for the 21st century student the impact of inflation on day to day living, makes that first week so much tougher.

Paying for entry to Freshers' parties, signing up to become a member of various clubs and societies and simply going out and being sociable with new-found friends, places huge financial pressure upon our teens and it is easy to see how this number can be reached so quickly.

In fact the rising cost of being a student has meant that twice as many students who graduated last year compared to 2015 or earlier, felt unable to actually enjoy themselves at Fresher's Week and with such a current emphasis on the mental health of our young people this is a worrying statistic, with potentially far-reaching consequences.

For many leaving home for the first time, keeping track of their spending is a daunting task.  They have worked hard for their exams but it doesn't end there, there is still more to come.  Going through our son's allowance with him before he headed off, it suddenly dawned on him that he would need to manage his budget carefully.

He worked hard to save for the customary bucket holidays with his mates over the summer as a final farewell to those fond and cossetted schooldays, but come last weekend he was close to penniless before his loan dropped into his account.

Numbers are his thing, so dropping him at university we had high hopes, that he of all people would manage it. Needless to say and maybe like most parents, we gave him a cash bonus as we left, to ease the pain of the first night at least.  Only 72 hours in and we had our first anxious call about the possibility of exceeding his allowance, alongside a text saying "it is not me to be fair, it is just how Freshers' is".

Has peer pressure got anything to do with it?  Well the research says yes and no doubt as a young teen trying to make an impression and not wanting to be left out of the party bubble in the first week, no doubt it has.

But what do those in the know say?  London is littered with universities, so I contacted London South Bank University for an opinion on Freshers' spending.  Student Advice Manager, Chris Wright said "For many students when they get their student loan it is the first time they are receiving such a significant amount of money in one go, therefore it is easy for them to overspend during Freshers' as they think they will have a lot left. Freshers’ is an opportunity for many to meet new people and to have a good time; everyone is trying to keep up as they do not want to be left out. Therefore many will spend money not taking into account that other students are maybe spending money they have saved over the summer or that their parents have given them, or that they have earnt.  Students can also see their loan as a way to update their wardrobe and to buy the things they have wanted for a long time, especially if they are going to events and would like to make a good impression on their peers."

The bitter truth is that the maintenance loan doesn't cover all the costs.  So is it another case of falling back on the bank of mum and dad?  No parent wants their teenager stressed.  How far can we or are we able to go to support them in their ambition?

Of course there will always be those parents (for whom money is no object) who do step in and bail their teens out, but life's harsh lessons are not learnt that way.  There comes a time when the safety net of mum and dad needs to be removed and they learn to stand on their own two feet.

I worked throughout my time at university.  My allowance was set and there was no room for manoeuvre.  It dawned on me very early that if I wanted to keep up with the Jones' and remove all financial angst, a job was the way forward.

There is nothing worse as a teenager than being told "when I was your age" but sometimes needs must and I have banged that message home all summer.  It is a divisive issue, some think working is a distraction but there are plenty of part-time jobs out there that won't get in the way of their studies.

So what else can they do to alleviate the burden? Well my advice to my teen was avoid going out every night.  Some low key nights are good. Leave your card behind.  Contactless payments are a devil to anyone, let alone a young teen starting out alone on  a budget.  Make the most of student discounts and the NUS extra card is certainly worth applying for.

What next?  Well hopefully not a financial hangover and a recognition of some vigilant budgeting, plus the knowledge that of course we understand and we will be there if needs must, but 72 hours is too soon for that. To coin a well worn phrase, your university years should be the best of your life, it would be a shame if it starts out so soon for our son and many others under a cloud.

 

Do you have any experiences to share?  I would love to hear how you or your teens coped or maybe are coping. Please let me know in the comments below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Top Tips For Surviving Freshers’ Week

This weekend we drove our eldest to university. Whilst he has spent the last week saying fond farewells to school friends, I have been doing what mothers do best - preparing.

His inbox has been full to bursting since results day with instructive and helpful emails from his university and UCAS on what he needs to do before he arrives and advice on what to bring.  A cursory glance and typical teenage comments of "stop fussing" is all it has provoked from him, whereas I have been religiously double-checking that nothing is overlooked.

Day to day essentials aside, the first hurdle, however, is surviving Freshers' Week so with my usual attention to detail here are some top tips for parents and their teenagers on making sure they don't miss out.

  • Even my social media savvy teen overlooked this initially, but facebook communities are where it all starts.  Once the results are in and their university offer has been confirmed, they can join their university's facebook community to get vital information on what is happening during that first all important week.  With hundreds of organised events to make that transition from home to away easier, including a Freshers' Week wristband to guarantee reduced price entry to the main events, this is where the party starts.  Wristbands are limited and whilst they can buy individual tickets for events when in situ, these make their life a whole lot easier and cheaper.
  • As well as the general university facebook community, there are also communities for their halls of residence and the key societies. Casting my mind back to my university days I didn't know a soul, a sharp contrast to our son who had copious information at his fingertips about every undergraduate in the university, his halls of residence, his corridor even and his course. Take heart, it is so much easier nowadays.
  • Freshers' flu was a thing 30 years ago when I was a student and it is still very much alive and kicking.  With thousands of strangers coming together in a new environment, university is by its a nature a breeding ground for bacteria.  Add to this the inevitable high octane socialising and it is not surprising that many new undergraduates are left nursing more than a heavy head at the end of the week. Compile a freshers' first aid kit in a bid to battle the germs, include some high dosage Vitamin C or Berocca to boost their immune system and the all important 21st century accessory hand sanitizer.  In the event that a cure is needed include those fail-safe remedies, Lemsip and Neurofen.
  • Perhaps a bigger threat to our young teens nowadays is Meningitis.  Don't let them wait until they arrive to get the jab, it maybe too late, organise it before they head off.
  • It's not easy adjusting to a completely new environment and meeting new people is always nerve-racking.  It can be made easier by leaving their room door open so that people moving in on their corridor can pop their head in and say hello.  Invest in a door stop.  An open door, like a smile, is inviting.
  • Freshers' week is all about socialising and getting to know people in a relaxed environment before the hard work starts.  But they can take it too far.  Encourage them to strike a balance and not overload on the club nights.  Sometimes it is a lot easier to get to know people over a quiet drink in the bar than doing it large every night.  
  • Like it or not fancy dress is a big part of Freshers' Week and if they don't want to be left out or look like a party pooper, pack a few bits and bobs to see them through the week.
  • It's not all about the parties. Freshers' Week gives students the chance to sign up to a range of club and societies that interest them.  It is easy however to get carried away in the first week and sign up to more than is physically possible or affordable. There are some, such as the sports ones, that are more popular than others and they need to be quick to join these, but there are also others that they can sign up to after the week is over.  It is important that they pace themselves.
  • Last but not least, amidst all the madness they need to buy their books and attend their course introductory social evenings. It is important for them to make sure they are ready to study on the first day of term. After all, that's why they're there!

As we said our fond farewells to our son and wished him luck for the week ahead he was understandably nervous about others' first impressions of him.  I reminded him that the first step is to smile.  Everyone is in the same boat and a smile goes a long way to making the whole process easier.

 

Have you been through this process in the past or recently? I would love to hear from you and if you have some more survival tips please add them in the comments.

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The Blogger Recognition Award

Over the summer I was nominated for the Blogger Recognition Award.  Firstly by Catie at Diary of An Imperfect Mum who has provided me with invaluable support on my blogging journey so far and "she who remains anonymous" at Old House In The Shires, a newbie blogger and fellow mother of teenagers with a house and garden to die for.  Check out her instagram feed for some quintessentially English scenes. Thanks to you both for thinking of me, it means alot.

To be honest I hadn't heard of the Blogger Recognition Award prior to being nominated.  It's not in the uber league of awards and is quite simply all about a bit of mutual appreciation.  It's not easy this blogging malarkey, it takes time and effort and this award is a chance for bloggers to acknowledge other bloggers and spread the blogger love in the process, which as we all know is a big part of the blogging code of conduct.

This kind of tagging is not for everyone and that's fine, but it is quite nice to recognise the efforts of others once in a while and to give each other a big pat on the back. Wherever you are on your blogging journey, everyone likes to know that someone enjoys what they write.

So without further ado...

The Rules

  • Thank the blogger who nominated you and provide a link to their blog.
  • Give a brief story of how your blog started.
  • Give two pieces of advice to new bloggers.
  • Select 10 other bloggers you want to give this award to.
  • Comment on each blog and let them know you have nominated them and provide the link to the post you created.

Mother of Teenagers 

Parenting is not a perfect science and we all seek advice at some point on the journey, whether from family and friends or online from experts and kindred spirits.  When I started this blog last year I was facing some milestones in my life, becoming  a mother to two teens and turning 50.  My blog was born as a response to that.

Mother of Teenagers provides a discreet glimpse at the reality of parenting teens; the highs, the lows and the bits in between whilst hopefully giving some practical advice along the way.  This is all interspersed with comment and discussion on the issues surrounding midlife that matter to me and hopefully to others too.

We all have a valuable voice to add and during my blogging lifetime I have met (if only virtually in some cases), some truly like-minded people and savoured every moment.  The job of being a mother is never complete and as I embark on this second half of my life I look forward to the new parenting and midlife challenges ahead with the added support of my online friends.

Advice to New Bloggers - In a Nutshell...

It's not as easy as it looks.  You will get disheartened sometimes, but don't give up and don't hesitate to ask for help.  The blogging community is supportive - reach out and embrace it.

My Nominees (in no particular order)

I hope you will all be tempted to join in and if not at least know that you are among the many I enjoy following.

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Guest Post – Top Shaving Tips For Teenage Boys

Watching my eldest get to grips with his personal grooming was interesting to say the least, particularly when it came to shaving - when to start, how often etc.  I have to admit to not being a great lover of facial hair so at the very first signs of the dreaded bum fluff I was keen for him to understand the importance of keeping on top of it but as a mother what on earth did I know about shaving? Well the truth is not a lot, but I knew it was something he had to learn to do properly from the outset and whether you are a fan of facial hair or not there is a world of difference between a good and bad shave.

Teaching your son to shave is generally considered to be a defining father-son moment on the path to preparing him for being a man.  But what about all those single mothers out there in need of some advice to pass on or who just want to know what their son should be doing?  Aron James is the editor of StubblePatrol and a father himself and here he shares his tips to help teenagers master the art of shaving, which I for one have found hugely valuable and have already thrust under the nose of my teenager to improve his technique!

ARON JAMES 

THE IMPORTANCE OF SHAVING

Like most teenage boys, my son's facial hair was relatively unnoticeable initially, but once he started high school he had to up his game considerably and shave more frequently, otherwise he would just look very unkempt.   He had to learn fast and although he made some mistakes as we all do when we start out, I gave him some pointers to put him on the right path. After all a young man wants to go into the world with style and be confident of how to look after himself, so here are my steps to help teenagers complete their look with a great shave.

THE ESSENTIALS OF A GREAT SHAVE

The essentials are a quality shaving cream that lathers and doesn’t foam; tea tree oil for its anti-microbial properties; a shaving brush that is not too hard or soft; a good quality razor; facial wash with tea tree oil and a clean towel.

TOP 3 TIPS FOR ACHIEVING THE BEST SHAVE  

1. The first thing to do is to wash the face with warm water to ensure the skin is moist. It is easy particularly in the early days to be too eager to just start and ignore this step but keeping the skin moist is the best way to ensure a close shave as it is widely reported that this reduces wear and tear on the skin that may cause inflammation afterwards.

2. He should apply the shaving cream on his face with his hands, then use the brush to lather it around in a circular fashion, ending with strokes in a direction opposite to the hair growth. This is really important because the cream not only provides a smooth surface for the blades to glide over the skin but it keeps the hair raised after stroking which helps to achieve a closer shave.

Thereafter he should use a razor and stroke gently in the direction of the hair growth, ensuring he uses nice even strokes until all the cream is gone.  If needs be, he can re-apply shaving cream once more and repeat the previous procedure to get an even closer and more even shave.

3. Rinse with warm water over the sensitive areas and use a facial wash high in tea tree oil to help kill inflammation-causing microbes after shaving. Rinse with cool water then pat dry with a clean towel and finish by applying regular tea tree oil to the skin to keep inflammation and possible ingrown hair from forming.

OTHER THINGS TO CONSIDER

These three top tips alone should be enough. However, if your son is anything like ours in the early days (a little arrogant) then he may not follow these tips exactly and end up suffering from a whole host of dermatological issues, so here are some other things for him to consider.

  • Do not rush a shave. That is because the more you rush the more likely it is that you will get nicks and cuts as you are applying more pressure.
  • Shaving against hair growth will lead to a closer shave but it may result in getting cut more as well as having ingrown hairs (my son learnt the hard way).
  • Instead of trying to get everything done all at once to safe time, you should shave twice so as not to damage the skin too much by trying to get the closest shave in one go.  This is particularly true if you do not want scrapes, cuts and in-grown hair.
  • Ensure that the shaving cream used is specifically for sensitive skin since teenager's facial skin is sensitive in the early years of shaving.

FINAL WORDS

Following the tips above teenage boys should be well set for following a path to shaving properly from the outset.  Once my son understood this he was able to get clean and consistent shaves without cuts, scrapping and in-grown hair. These tips kept him out of the dermatologist’s office and caused him to shave more; improving his looks and his self-esteem. Take it from me as a parent of a teenage son he will thank you for giving him this expert advice, if not immediately then definitely in the long run!

Author Bio:

Aron James is the founder of StubblePatrol.com a site on male grooming offering best practice advice on a wide range of grooming topics.

 

Editor's Note : This is not a sponsored post.  

 

 

 

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The Mother & Teenager C25K Challenge

One thing I never thought I would be taking up again at 50 is running!  I did all that and got the t-shirt way back in my 20's and 30's. Keeping fit and healthy is of course a priority, but over the last decade it has been of a more conservative nature than returning to pounding the streets and parks of South London.  So what happened?

Well with a a staycation planned for our summer and lazy days stretching ahead with just the youngest teen for company, it struck me that we could both benefit from something to focus on and as I wrote only a short while ago having a shared interest with your child or teens is so valuable.  It gives us a common purpose, keeps us talking and keeps our relationship alive and as any parent with teenagers will realise that is not a bad thing.

There are some seriously accomplished running mumbloggers out there, Sarah at Mum of Three World for one and some like the fabulous Prabs at Absolutely Prabulous who like me is pushing back against midlife in style.  There have also been many wonderful and inspirational pieces written by other bloggers about their own Couch to 5K (C25K) journey including Charlie over at Mess & Merlot, who not content with reaching the 5K milestone, pushed herself onto 10K.  Aspirational indeed but for now we like all newcomers are just focusing on the first steps to 5K.

The C25K programme is not new, it has actually been around since 1996 and ironically was actually devised by a young man called Josh Clark with his 50 year old mother in mind, to encourage her to address her health.

When I hit 50 earlier this year I reviewed my midlife exercise regime with its focus heavily towards Pilates and Barre work outs and booked sessions with personal trainer Clare at Live In Fitness Retreat.  A 56 year old whose mantra is that "50 doesn't define us anymore", Clare took me outside of my comfort zone and introduced me to HIIT, a way of exercising that can be done in just 12 minutes a day.  It was a real eye opener for me in terms of my cardio-vascular health, I managed the sessions and still do some at home, but it was evident that it was something I had neglected in recent years.

Following in the footsteps of Josh Clark's mother and all the other 50 year olds like her I hope that apart from binding me in a shared agony with my daughter, running again will address that area of weakness for me.  But this experience is not just about me, the other half of the "us" is my daughter who is keen to return to school in September fit and ready for the hockey season ahead, with its gruelling training schedule of early mornings and late afternoons.  For her it is all about improving her stamina and of course hanging out with me!

So how has it been so far?  Well we are almost at the end of the third week of the nine week programme and I think I can safely say we both feel quite smug.  Firstly, because we have proved to the doubting boys in the house that the girls in the house can do "sweaty, heart pumping" exercise if we put our minds to it and secondly because quite frankly not every day has been easy!

There have been days when we have been too hot, too cold or soaked to the skin by archetypal English downpours.  Some mornings we have just been dog tired.  We have also been embarrassed as we pass people we know with the dulcet tones of Michael Jordan booming from our phones encouraging us to start, to stop, to run, to walk but most importantly to keep a steady pace and just keep going.

This aside, however, we have enjoyed the warm up walk and the chance to chat about "stuff"; the way we feel at the end of each session; the fact we keep on doing it not because we have to but because we want to and that as each run passes we have ticked another box, plus we are getting close to noticing a real difference.  Of course we have exchanged a few cross words along the way but we don't pant now, we breathe and not just in time with our own footsteps but with each other. We are in sync on our runs, supporting and coaxing each other along the way.

Josh Clark said that he wanted the programme to be easy and rewarding, recognising that we are creatures of inertia and need carrots to get moving and to continue.  In that regard, it is working for us thus far.  As beginners the schedule is sustainable.  I don't know how far we will go with it and whether once we reach the end and tick off our first 5K we will then join the masses running several times a week.  I do, however, hope that we will both reap the rewards of improved fitness and at the very least we will get together once a week for some more "us" time.  Watch this space!

 

Have you embarked on the C25K challenge or something like it?  If so I would love to hear how you coped.

 

Mummy Times TwoThat Friday Linky JakiJellz 

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The Value Of A Shared Interest Between Parent & Child

What makes you tick?  Do you share any passions with your children? One of the many things I love about being a mother of teenagers is discovering shared interests that help to cement our relationship as adults and as a family.

As parents we are all guilty of enrolling our children from an early age in a multitude of clubs under the guise that it will be "good for them", whilst waiting quietly in the wings to see which ones stick and if we have a child prodigy on our hands - oh if only!

Those early day activities do have a role to play but the real moment of discovery comes with the secondary parenting stage when our children cast off the shackles of stage one parenting and start to own and nurture their own interests in a grab for independence of mind and spirit.   It is a moment of childhood metamorphosis.

It is wonderful to see them hit on something that ignites a spark and for which they truly develop not just a liking but a passion.  It is even better, however, if that something also interests you and will therefore connect you as individuals with a shared interest, rather than simply as a parent and child.

Of course with a boy and a girl in the house it is natural to assume the father will do all the boy stuff and the mother all the girl stuff, but that is an outdated viewpoint and certainly not the case in our house. I would be lying, however, if I said my eldest teenager's passions for rugby and cricket ignite a spark in me, but nevertheless I am genuinely interested in what it means to him.  So over the years that has meant standing in the back garden and helping out whilst he practises his passing (rugby) or bowling (cricket), turning up to support him when he is playing, trying to understand the rules and taking an interest in the detailed match analysis that always follows every game. Sport excites him and is a big part of him I cannot ignore if I am to understand and connect with him, although sports trivia and inside sporting jokes are clearly the preserve of my husband as are trips to watch live games or to play a round of golf.

Sport aside, on a more frivolous level  we also love shopping together (yah!) a male in the house that loves to look good after a wasted decade spent trying to persuade my husband that clothes maketh the man and are not just a necessity for covering nudity, is a relief I cannot quite describe.   My son has helped me to decide on many an outfit over the years and was my chosen shopping companion when buying my all important shoes for my 50th this year.  My husband would say it is a shallow shared interest of course but I beg to differ.

Sadly my eldest does not share my passion for reading, the theatre or art.   Over the years we have forced books upon both our teens but with our eldest it has been clear since primary that reading would always be a means to an end for him and not a pleasure.  A Freddie Flintoff biography remains to this day his favourite read of all time - as an English graduate I have despaired!  Similarly, with the theatre whilst we have enjoyed many a family excursion to national and local theatre, aside from a pantomine featuring the dance group Diversity after their success on Britain's Got Talent, it really hasn't flicked his switch but it doesn't mean we have given up - it is just a case of finding a compromise sometimes and we have had a few wins amidst the fails War Horse, Le Cirque du Soleil to name a few.

These passions of mine are all the reserve of my shared interests with my youngest teen who devours books by the truckload, adores drama from the perspective of a spectator, performer and director and is very happy to wile away several hours with me at the RA , the Tate or our local art galleries and has even started her own mini art collection as a result.

Similarly with my daughter, however, despite our female connection she shares a fistful of interests with her father I can't get close to.  Sci-Fi for one, YouTubers with extraordinary names, the Marvel Universe and Gaming and as she reminded me only this morning, it was as a result of my husband spending hours at a time making up stories with her toys and shooting videos that ignited her love of filming.

It is impossible for everyone in a family to like all of the same things but to survive the next phase of parenting and beyond it is essential to have some areas of common ground.  It is our areas of shared interest that give not only our family our identity but the relationships within it too.  If I think about my relationship with my parents now in their 70's, my mother's absolute love is gardening and it is through her that I have developed my own interest.  Growing up in Norfolk, outdoor coastal walks were a regular occurence and gave us the chance to come together as a family and this is something I still enjoy not only with my parents when I visit, but also in London with my own family, even if the views don't involve the sea.

As a family we have clocked up some fabulous experiences together including our Super Saturday experience at the 2012 Olympics and an array of moments from travelling and exploring different countries and cultures, something again that my own parents engendered in me during my childhood.   Comedy is also a shared passion and we all relish a night being entertained either from the comfort of our sofa or live at comedy clubs or the big venues with the likes of Michael McIntrye and Jack Whitehall - a new introduction for me by my teens in fact.

The truth is, however, it doesn't even need to be complicated, some of our best moments together have been enjoying a wet and windy walk around the common or sitting around a table playing a card or board game (Scrabble brings out the worst in all of us) and binge watching on Eastenders or Come Dine With Me whilst waiting for my own culinary masterpiece to materialise (think Wendy of Butterflies fame - if you are old enough of course!)

Parenting teenagers is a distinctive journey and the value of shared interests is nowhere more apparent than at this stage - they will provide a multitude of unforgettable experiences and are ultimately the glue that will bind you together for the stage beyond.

 

What interests do you share with your children and as a family?  I would love to hear from you in the comments below.

 

 

Tammymum Cuddle Fairy

 

 

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Sleepy Teenagers – How Much Do They Need?

With the exams finally behind us and the holidays stretching ahead it has struck me that one thing teenagers can do very well is sleep.

In our house there is a definite teen sleep pattern evolving that eschews that of the rest of the house and means not only are our body clocks not in tune but also we are out of sync on so many other levels as a result.

If he is not working to pay for his multiple upcoming summer holidays, our eldest will go out as we go to bed, arrive home as my husband goes to work, go to sleep as I get up and his breakfast is our lunch and so on and so forth.   As for our youngest, well she is going through a massive growth spurt at the moment and is permanently tired so needs no encouragement to sleep some more.

I am certainly not a morning person and relish the holidays and the chance for some extra shut eye, but my teenagers make sleeping look like an Olympic sport when not at school and I confess that on a couple of occasions I have resorted to the habit namely reserved for new mums of creeping in to their rooms and checking for a pulse for fear they have slipped in to a sleep induced coma!

Of course this whole scenario is ironic as I am sure like many other parents of teenagers will attest, the term time is a constant battle to get them to go to bed and get enough sleep, so if I argue with them now about cutting their sleep short and getting up earlier, they simply raise their eyebrows and challenge my logic.

Research from the National Sleep Foundation shows that teenagers between the ages of 14-18 need around 9 hours sleep a night, not only for their general well being but also to function at their best.

As adults, we are all too aware of the benefits of sleep.  It makes us more alert and we have more energy, we think more clearly and make better decisions and that of course means we are all much happier and enjoy life more, but just as with everything else in life though, it isn't just about the quantity of sleep but the quality.

Puberty, has a lot to answer for and as our children move through adolescence their internal body clock starts to alter which in turn affects their circadian rhythm making them more alert later in the day and moving back their time for feeling sleepy at night by about two hours, so it is a futile battle to get them to go to bed early as their body is simply not sleepy enough.

Combine this with busy schedules during the term time and the need to wake up early and go to school and invariably our teenagers are just not getting the amount, let alone the quality of sleep they need.

Cumulative sleep deprivation is bad for our health and as I know from personal experience with my menopausal insomnia, can result in mood swings, concentration issues and poor health and the same is true of teenagers.  They need sleep to ensure their brain grows properly and to make sense of the world.

I have featured a guest post previously from Dr Martin Lee at No Phone Zone on good sleep hygiene habits for our teenagers and the importance of ensuring they disconnect from the digital world when they go to bed, but what else can we do as parents?

Well during term time a routine and set bed time is important, but it would seem that during the weekends and holidays whilst it may go against every grain in our body and drive us nuts, it is advised to let our teenagers sleep to replenish their fuel reserves, but this should not be at the expense of any parental control.  If left to sleep indefinitely teenagers will experience a complete shift in their circadian rhythm which will mean that when it comes to the end of the holidays and returning to a normal routine they will struggle to adapt.

A good night's rest is vital mental nourishment and the holidays are a time for resting and throwing the rule book and the alarm clock for that matter out of the window but there is a point at which it is necessary to call "time teenagers please!"

 

What is your summer holiday sleep routine? Are your youngsters busy catching up on their sleep?

 

 

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