Understanding My Teenager And Communicating With Her.

There exists huge amounts of social pressure on teens today and the opinions of their friends become extremely important. But they still need help and support to build and maintain healthy friendships. I cannot stress the importance of developing a good parent teen relationship, staying connected and especially paying attention to them. Continuing to be a role model, the person they look up to a reliable parent. I am not suggesting becoming their friend just remaining their parent.

“Telling a teenager the facts of life is like giving a fish a bath.”
Arnold H. Glasow

Friendships are a necessary support group for teenagers. They provide a sense belonging and a feeling of value which in turn assists in building confidence. Teens will not always ask parents for information as in some cases they may find it all too embarrassing, for example puberty and what they are experiencing physically and emotionally. Friendships are a good source of information and provide emotional support a sense of security and comfort with others going through the same experiences. For many teens the teen years is where they develop relationships with the opposite sex and romantic and sexual relationships are experienced.

As the transision from child to teen begins it is very normal for teenagers to spend more time alone and with their friends. Essentially this translates to them spending less time with family. Many parents fret about this and fear these intense friendships will become more valuable than the family unit. This is not unusual and if you cast your mamory back and are honest with yourself your behaviour was the same.

Fear not your child, now a teen, still needs you and as they get older and mature you may even need them and who knows they may offer you support. As parents it is important to encourage friendship amoung teens, but it is also very important to know who your teen is friends with and have open conversations about the different relationships with your teen. Encourage your son or daughter to be a good friend there are a few ways that this can be done and the life long benefit is that it will stand to your child for future years in how they develop relationships.

Sometimes young people do not realise that all friendships are not forever. People change over their lifetime and friends that your child is close to now, might not be the friendships they have in years to come. The occasional fallout between friends is natural. Help them navigate through conflict. Show respect to others and they should be respectful to you!

“I tell my child, if I seem obsessed to always know where you’ve been, it is because my DNA will be found at the scene.”
Robert Brault

As a parent there is nothing worse then making the tough decisions and suddenly becoming the “bad person”. Perhaps being told how much they hate you and how you are ruining their life and followed of by the slamming of doors and then to top it off, picture without sound. It is not our job to be our child’s friend. Our job is far more complicated than that. Children and especially adolescents need limits they crave boundaries and structure. And as teenagers they most definitely need a healthy separation from their parents. Our job is to teach our children and when and they will disobey dish out consequences. If you become their friend it is impossible to lay down the law and be respected by your teen. If you have treated your teen as a friend you will create confusion and they will believe that their power is equal to yours.

As our children grow up they strive to learn where they fit in and what is their place in the world, it is our job to guide and give them the time and space to grow into each phase developing to the next stage. Treating them as a peer/friend will not allow them to be kids.

Our Children, Covid-19 (Coronavirus) and the War Years

Covid-19 (Coronavirus) like the Second World War is a time of huge upheaval for our children and of course, us the adults. Whilst our towns and cities aren’t being evacuated we are adjusting to separation from friends and family. Many Grandparents and those who are vulnerable are scared and because of the threat posed we can’t visit to give them a hug of reassurance. There are no bombing raids and no threat of our men heading to war with the possibility of not returning. But this is a time where we must take precautions and adapt quickly and humanely with respect and empathy. Like the war, we will win but there will be disruption and shortages which will continue long after Covid-19 has left our boarders. This will have a long lasting effect on our children.

Out of this nettle, danger, we pluck this flower, safety.     
William Shakespeare

It is terrible to live in fear with the possibility you will loose someone that you love, especially when you have no control over the outcome. Unlike the war years we don’t have to wait for the postman, we have social media and communication is live whether by phone, text or video. I believe following Covid-19 will be our best history lesson! 

The threat of the Coronavirus is here and unlike the war the battleground is not being played out in Europe, Africa and Asia it is world-wide and will affect all of us. We are not trying to defeat Nazism but something far worse, something we can’t see, something hidden. We have a responsibility as family members, neighbours, colleagues, christians and humans to come together and unite to fight this virus. We can learn from the war years, In 1938 when war seemed imminent some precautions were put in place for instance air raid shelters were distributed, gas masks were issued and night-time blackouts were planned. Today it is social distancing, washing our hands, ensuring those who are at high risk remain at home and the washing of hands. We know what we must do to slow this Covad-19 down. The one big difference is there are no B52s overhead and no bombings just now a deadly silence, the battlefield is very different and we are all on the frontline. But we are lucky there are no mass evacuations of children, this virus holds no prejudice of race, religion, sex or nationality. There is no ‘Kindertransport’, to escape Natzi persecution. The British Government in September began a huge evacuation of children from towns and cities. Most kids travelled with their schools and lived with foster parents, an adventure today most children would dislike. Thankfully we have the control of our children’s destiny and remain with them to guide them through and beyond Covad-19.

Our children don’t have to live under the constant threat of invasion, our fear is Coronavirus. Thankfully the information to date on this virus is our young are at low risk and I hope this remains the fact and they will get to fight another day. Unlike the Children during the war years where many were killed at the hands of violence. 

Today our homes are built to our needs, and in many respects we take a lot for granted. At a flick of a button we have heat, water, television and of course the internet. War time homes may have looked similar on the outside but inside many families had outside toilets and a bathroom didn’t exist for most. Children often shared beds with their brother/sister or even their parents. In war ravaged Europe many homes were destroyed and families left homeless. Today, our governments are desperately trying to fight this virus and package economic resources to give many of us some breathing space as employment dries up. We may still have our homes but the fear of loosing them is very real.

The Coronavirus has completely disrupted the education of our children. Our teachers are working hard using the technology we have available to keep some sort of normality and of course ensuring are children are still engaged in their studies no matter what stage of school they are at. I have hovered up all of the help from our educators and during the so called school week have my daughters up and ready for home school. My patience will be tested and of writing this I have not suspended or expelled any of my two pupils.

Never give in.. never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never yield to force.. never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.     
Winston Churchill

As of today I am going to introduce a diary for my girls to keep. I hope it will be a valuable history lesson and something in decades to come they can share and look back on and learn from. My Grandfather was prisoner of war for five years and his diary is kept in a museum, those times illustrate a truly horrific period in our history and I pray the times ahead for us will not be the same.

I look forward to the end of Coronavirus and celebrating how all of us made a vital contribution to beating it. Most of all I look forward to the change this will force upon us and the reminder of the responsibilities we have as parents, friends, neighbours, relatives and humans. Stay safe!

Our Children Are Exposed To Cyberbullying.

Children must climb over obstacles to develop into the wondeful individuals that they are.
“There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.”  — Nelson Mandela, Former President of South Africa

We all know or at the very least are aware of the dangers that smart phones pose to our children, it may seem easier just to ban them but that’s not a practical solution. They are not under our direct supervision every hour of every day. Thus they have lots of opportunities to get online, so it is up to us to navigate our loved ones and teach them how to use and be safe online, but most importantly build a relationship with our children to communicate with us should they have any negative experiences. This gives us, the parent the platform to assist and help them deal with any online bullying they may experience.

There are no decisive laws in existence that directly relate to online bullying and remember we are discussing children so it is worth keeping in mind they are minors. Cyberbullying is not just limited to children who have a reputation for behaving badly, and it has become a lot more common than what we think for various different reasons, such as peer pressure, jealousy, boredom, trying to be cool, judgmental and lack of parental involvement as things at home are difficult, like a marriage break up. So why is it happening? It can be a form of entertainment, a method to inject drama, power and sometimes the bully just does not see they are doing anything wrong and view it as a harmless joke. But what is consistent is the bully has a sense of invincibility because it is hard to get caught compared to the traditional bullying that was carried out on the school yard and in public view.

This modern day epidemic is not just a western world crisis it exists worldwide. It is growing in the U.S, Europe and India to name just a few countries. While our children are happy to chat on WhatsApp, Messenger, Snap Chat and post pictures on Instagram, we need to make them aware there also exists a dark side to social media. Unlike the old fashioned bullying where it ended once you got home, technology now brings it with the victim 24/7. It is scary knowing our children can be threatened, intimidated and picked on nonstop.

What is cyberbullying? It is when children use online technology to hurt other children. Essentially they are using the internet to hurt, embarrass and harass other children. This is done on purpose and typically ongoing. It can be carried out by a single person or a group of individuals posting hurtful things.

We must nurture our children and give them the opportunity to be a child.
“We worry about what a child will become tomorrow, yet we forget that he is someone today.”  — Stacia Tauscher, dancer and artist

It is essential to point out that not all online arguments are cyberbullying. Kids will have conflicts with other kids online, whether it is teasing, jesting or just joking. Children tease because it can spark off a fun way to provoke a reaction in someone else, and they may want to give as good as they got while being teased themselves. Teasing can reinforce a relationship by showing closeness and affection with another child. While teasing can be used to strengthen a relationship, it can also be used to alienate, criticise, and embarrass another person, which may diminish the relationship. The affectionate interaction of teasing can turn confrontational when the child being teased is distressed by the teasing.

So how old are our children when they begin to go online? Children as young as three have access to the internet and most of our children spend more time socially online than we do! Television still remains the media of choice among young children, with kids aged 5 to 8 spending around 64 minutes watching television each day, a number which is even higher in the 2 to 4 year old age group. About 88% of teenagers have access to the internet from various different tools. As smartphone access has become more prevalent, a growing share of teens now report using the internet on a near-constant basis. Some 45% of teens say they use the internet “almost constantly,” a figure that has nearly doubled from the 24% who said this in the 2014-2015 survey. Another 44% say they go online several times a day, meaning roughly nine-in-ten teens go online at least multiple times per day.

So, how do we as parents prevent cyberbullying? We must educate our young ones and prepare them for life online. Explain what exactly cyberbullying is and discuss with them what to do if he or she experiences cyberbullying. Keep all lines of communication open and teach our children respect for others online. What can we control? Monitor or kids usage of technology, educate ourselves of what devices, apps and technology our kids are using. If your budget allow it, use a contract for your Childs phone. This way you can see and manage your Childs technology use.

It is so important and fun to eat together as a family.

Murf relaxing after International Friday.

My favourite room in the house is the kitchen, it’s where we as a family can be imaginative, creative and share our experiences of the day or plan tomorrow. It’s the room where I have most of my memories. Some of my funniest ones are “International Friday” this is where each week one of us gets to choose the family meal. A lot of research goes into this and it does become competitive as we all try to out do each others meal. However you have to be mindful as we all have very different tastes so the dish must suit all. Tuesday is the day you have to present what you have chosen and detail the ingredients that must be purchased. When possible we will all go out to buy the ingredients, however this happens rarely! We all are involved in the cooking, including the dog who manages to lie in the middle of my very small kitchen and supervise whilst hoovering up anything that may end up on the floor.

There never seems to be arguments and we all pull together as a team each of us contributing and working in unity. I hope this creates lots of memories for my girls and maybe in years to come they may try it with their family. My big confession is I let them relax and do whatever they want after the meal thus let them off the clean up.

Family dinner is important. In todays world it would be so much easier to forget about this meal, we are juggling jobs, children and after-school activities to name a few. We are constantly on the move, thus feeling the need to eat on the run. At the turn of the last century dinner time was 90 minutes, now it is just over 10! Meal time is the only time when all family members are in one place together. Let’s face it some family members view dinner time as a burden and a chore at the end of the day.

In the last couple of decades the frequency of family dinners has dramatically declined by a whopping 33 percent. An American poll found that 62 percent of parents with children under 18 wish they had family dinners more often! The European Unions mission has set out to achieve universal access to affordable, balanced, healthy food to all through intersectoral policies of Health 2020.

Just because things have changed, does not mean the value of meals has weakened. Interestingly enough, according to research at Columbia University, children and teenagers who at least have a family meal three or more times a week are less likely to be overweight, more likely to eat healthy food, do better in school, less likely to engage in risk taking ie drugs, alcohol and sexual activity. They also tend to form better relationships with their parents.

“More frequent family dinners are related to fewer emotional and behavioural problems, greater emotional well-being, more trusting and helpful behaviours towards others and higher life satisfaction.” Journal of Adolescent Health, April 2012.

We are what we eat and it is imperative we start to take responsibility as parents. But it must be more than just in the home where we educate, schools must get on board, our governments, we need cultural change. As a rehabilitated smoker and one that enjoyed a packet a day to not smoking it is proof that when we all come together and promote the dangers of something we can create change. I am not advocating removing peoples freedom of choice but encouraging that we have the information to make the right choices for our family without bias marketing used by modern day food companies. Case in point Activia yogurt said it had “special bacterial ingredients.”

In 2050 we will need to feed two billion more people. Our choice of food we decide to eat is already becoming very important and these choices will have consequences for our planet. In short a diet based around meat and dairy will take a grater toll on the worlds resources then one that is centred on unrefined grains, nuts, fruit, and vegetables.

As today is Friday and my youngest chose the meal which is chilli con carne, which also happens to be one of her favourites! I always enjoy the girls handling onions as inevitably swimming goggles appear on my little ones face to avoid onion tears. Every time it makes me laugh but she does have the last laugh as the rest of us are suffering with tears streaming from our eyes, even the dog vacates the kitchen till it is safe to return!

Finding Myself. Part 2

I have never got to grips with understanding who I am, what makes me the person I am today. I can safely say my children gave me the greatest gift. I am a Dad. Without that I really do not know what would have happened to me. I certainly do not think I would be roaming around the earth being me. Now my daughters can’t take all the credit I am blessed to have four people in my life that I can talk to without judgement being made and can always call them for council. All in all these people, these incredible people have helped me find my identity.

As a young man I was involved in sport and these activities helped me make goals. Unfortunately in life it is not always possible to achieve these goals but for me I have always struggled to have a balanced approach in realising why they were not attained. Time and time again I would fall back to being self-critical and become consumed with negativity so much so until all my motivation was drained. It has taken me five decades to get to know myself and know what I needed to do to change. This process has opened my eyes and let me approach myself in a more positive way. I suppose my life to date has been a journey to find self-acceptance. 

I was a casualty of the financial crash in 2008 and lost everything, the absolute feeling of failure is so intense and with that there were are a cue of people shouting at me in anger backing up what I already thought of myself. Things were said to me that have never left my conscious and the sorrow of letting down some really good people financially I will never get over. During this time I was truly alone and there was no God that was free to help me. This I had to work through myself.

My marriage quickly fell apart during this time as truths surfaced and we parted our ways, not before agreeing terms of the custody of both of our wonderful daughters. Common sense between both parents prevailed and only the best for our children was our focal points and goal.

All of these factors helped cement the negative perception of myself that already existed. I was defeated and every mistake or obstacle that came my way was proof of my shortcomings. Being a Dad kept me grounded and the desire to be the best Dad was my only motivation. Everything else I was able to park and all the negativity around me I fought. Perhaps this was the beginning of me learning to value myself or at the very least prioritising. My family and I were my motivation and goal.

I am beginning to learn to concentrate on who I am and not what I do. The negative noise in my head is slowly being drowned out. I don’t think of myself in that negative way anymore and those people that have judged me on may failures are entitled to, the only difference now is I won’t let them pull me down. Time to swim and stop sinking. My biggest lesson was to cease looking at my accomplishments either negatively or positively to validate my worthiness. My children and my four friends have guided me to validating my achievements by looking within myself and to my relationships with them as a monitor of my life achievements. Essentially this is my space to get my self-acceptance back.

Being fifty has been a wonderful gift and I have a quiver filled of experience and life to reflect on. This as given me a greater sense of well-being and a true meaning of the direction of my path/journey in life. I feel good about myself and want to nurture it and become the best Dad and friend to the people that matter to me in life and that I love.

I am not naive, life will throw lots more challenges at me. To deal with these I have made some life changes. I enjoy swimming and get huge head space when in the water and the added bonus is I am fit. I try to swim a minimum of 3 kilometres twice a week and sometimes three times a week. I have a goal this summer and when I achieve it I will share with you. I have always been a social person, now I am a little more guarded and protective of myself so only let my hair down in the company of my four friends. The power of positive relationships cannot be underestimated and this supports me emotionally and practically. I hope I am as good a friend to them as they are to me. I enjoy our very different personalities, opinions and sometimes beliefs and especially their honesty.

My goal for 2020 is to take setbacks as momentary problems and not as proof of my shortcomings and failures. I hope you are well and my experiences, shortcomings, failures, inadequacies, fight, strength and the want to be the best Dad and friend helps you understand you are not alone and you can be the person you are without prejudice and with ambiguity.