YOUNGSTERS are bottling up their anxieties especially on drugs, alcohol, relationships, bullying… â€œMany children find it very hard to talk to their parents, particularly as they become teenagersâ€, says Eileen Hayes, a parenting adviser, â€œbut in an ideal world, every child could turn to his or her parent for support. With a little help from you, your children will be more open about their fears.â€ Here is how she advises you encourage them:
Donâ€™t try to force answers out of them, if you ask a direct question and donâ€™t get anÂ answer, just say: â€œNo problem. But remember Iâ€™ll be here if you decide to tell me.â€
Ask questions: Try to keep in touch with whatâ€™s going on in your teenagerâ€™s life. If you know that your daughterâ€™s favourite sport is netball, you will know that somethingâ€™s wrong without even asking if she stops going to after-school practices.
Approach boys and girls differently: Girls will respond better to a sit down, eye-to-eye chat – they like to have your full attention. But many boys find this approach a bit off-putting and would much rather have a â€˜side-waysâ€™ chat.
For example, when driving them to football practice or the gym, casually drop in the subject youâ€™re feeling concerned about: â€œSo,Â howâ€™s the maths going, then?â€Â or â€œyou havenâ€™t mentioned Lucy in a while.
How is she?â€Â â€œBoys can be harder to reach as many of them still feel that a â€˜real manâ€™ shouldnâ€™t ask for help. Make it clear that thereâ€™s nothing wrong with needing support.
Using listening skills: Donâ€™t interrupt or jump in too quickly before you have heard the full story. Feed important points back to them and ask questions to make it clear that you are paying attention to them. For example: â€œ So, you told him to leave you alone? And then what happened?â€
When your child has told you something that needs to be taken further, be careful. If itâ€™s something as bad as child abuse, you will have to tell them that you must act. If the problem is less serious, listen to the child. Often, they will want you to stay calm rather than act.
You might want to storm down to the school and confront the headmistress about the matter, but your child may disagree. Donâ€™t be upset if your child talks to someone else.
They may decide to discuss things with their teacher or another adult they respect. Itâ€™s normal to fee! hurt when you find out, but donâ€™t be angry, if s a good sign. Your child is becoming independent and is trying to find his or her own solutions. Remember that everyone is different.
Some kids are secretive by nature and some tell you everything. But you know your own child best, if he or she is behaving out of character, be concerned. Watch for signs of depression, such as locking themselves away for hours and refusing to say why. And be alert to other small signs – children often give clues in throwaway remarks like â€˜I wish I was dead.â€™