I really hate you mum, but I have to say your book is brilliant
GET OUT OF MY LIFE... But first take me and Alex into town by Tony Wolf and Suzanne Franks, Profile Books, £8.99. Many parents withtroublesome teens have found solace in Suzanne Franks bestselling book since it was first published in 2002. Now, in the
GET OUT OF MY LIFE... But first take me and Alex into town by Tony Wolf and Suzanne Franks, Profile Books, £8.99.
Many parents withtroublesome teens have found solace in Suzanne Franks'
bestselling book since it was first published in 2002. Now, in these days of mobile phones and binge drinking, it has been revised and updated
SINCE writing her commonsense book on dealing with troublesome teens, Suzanne Franks has often been thanked by grateful parents for saving their sanity.
The bestseller has sold 300,000 copies since its 2002 publication and has now been updated with the latest developments in electronic communication, recreational drug use, and the worrying rise in binge drinking and suicide.
Franks, who lives in Park Avenue, Golders Green and has offspring aged 21, 17, and 13, says: "None of the principles have changed but I wanted to update the book to include things like, mobile phones, binge drinking, which has seen a rapid rise particularly among girls, and the worrying statistics on suicide in teenage boys."
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She says the universal use of email, social networking sites, and texting has created an even bigger headache for parents.
"The way teenagers communicate with each other has changed and exacerbated their most annoying habits. Historically you had to know before leaving the house where you were meeting A or B but now they can change their minds constantly. The whole maddening impulse of teenagers to make every arrangement as vague as possible is enabled by the technology. When teens used the house landline you had a pretty good idea who was phoning. Now every child uses mobile phones and email it's even harder for parents to keep track of where they are and who they are meeting."
The former BBC and independent TV producer has translated the theory and expertise of child clinical psychologist Tony Wolf into accessible language to explain what goes on in teenager's heads.
As adolescents forge new independent identities and reject childhood, they jettison the parental values and controls that defined their early years.
Sons struggling to deal with their wayward sexuality typically retreat - especially from their mothers - into silence and absence that can be worrying because they clam up about experiencing major problems.
Daughters keep lines of communication open, but often through screaming, abusive arguments. "You get yourself sucked into these awful soul destroying rows and so much of what teenagers say is absolute rubbish," says Franks. "For your own psychological health try to think one step ahead, assess whether this is a battle worth fighting. Firmly state your position or rule and end it as soon as possible."
Confusingly teens also fear responsibility and adulthood - reverting to behaviour that cossets a "baby-self" with little conscience or self awareness - hence the irritating habit of doing only what pleases them with scant regard to others.
"It's like going back to the toddler years. The frustrations you feel as a parent are quite similar and although the issues of teenagers seem more dramatic, it can be useful to see it as that same combination of wanting independence and separation from parents while also wanting the protection of having them at your beck and call.
"The difference is that instead of screaming in the supermarket they are saying incredibly hurtful things to you. They can search out your vulnerabilities in a way nobody else can."
Despite this onslaught, the parents of teens should continue to set boundaries and make rules even while their children constantly challenge them.
"The boundaries have to be there or everything falls apart."
Franks' insightful, unjudgemental advice reassures parents that even scary, unpleasant behaviour falls within the parameters of "normal".
She urges parents not to judge themselves too harshly.
"At the toddler stage there are lots of parents around to share your problems with your kid but it is much more isolating parenting a teenager. You are no longer at the school gate or toddler group and if they are involved with drugs or have screamed unpleasant things at you, you are more reticent about sharing the problem."
"Even a fairly normal situation can feel very unpleasant and scary but you should remember that with all the hormones buzzing around, the fearlessness of teenagers who are sure they are invulnerable, and the fact that their brains are not fully matured until their early 20s, this is still normal behaviour."
The question then is how far parents should protect adolescents from their own poor judgement and inability to anticipate the consequences of their actions.
Franks says over-cosseting leads to spoiled adults who improperly understand how the world works.
"Modern parenting seems to want to protect them from everything but there is a brutal world out there and they should find out for themselves what failure is like, rather than covering for them and cushioning them from their own bad behaviour. That said it is difficult as a parent to let them fail in the big things that will affect their life choices like teen pregnancy, or not doing exam coursework."
Parents should also recognise that their children are growing up in a less deferential but also less certain world than they did, and that they cannot expect the same relationship they had with their own parents.
"Culturally adolescence is starting earlier and lasting longer. This cosseting and lack of responsibility lasts into early adulthood and employers are complaining young people are spoiled."
Finally, Franks has some reassuring words for those in the throes of teen tantrums whose previously sociable son or daughter has morphed into a screaming behemoth or sullen youth.
"Provided you did the right things in their early lives, had good lines of communication and relationships, they will come back to you."
Interviewer: Bridget Galton