A few weeks ago I attended a really lovely afternoon tea and chat with a small number of lovely bloggers, along with Nadia Sawalha, her teenage daughter Maddie, and expert Teenologist, Sarah Newton.
Whilst drinking lots of tea and eating cake, we discussed teenagers and the difficulties both parents and teens themselves have talking about the big and little issues facing them as they grow up. The teenage years can be a very confusing time, with loads of firsts, and it can be difficult for both the parent and the teen. Despite not having even close to a teenager yet (thank god), it’s always nice to feel prepared for the future and it was so interesting chatting with other mums, including Nadia and Sarah about what each of us worry about, as well as hearing from Maddie from a teenagers perspective. Unfortunately there weren’t any Dads there which is a shame as I think it would have been really interesting to hear things from their perspective. I’m guessing that it is often the mums rather than the dads that have the ‘talk’ with their children, but obviously that is not always the case.
The #TeenTalk Campaign
Celebrity mum Nadia and her teenage daughter Maddie have teamed up with Boots and Proctor and Gamble (who make trusted brands such as Always, Gillette, Tampax and Venus) to help parents and teens approach the #TeenTalk. They are reaching out to parents across the UK with to provide them with the tips and tools they need to have the all-important ‘teen conversation’.
It was really interesting to hear from others at different stages of parenthood, as to what they were worried about, and how they approach talking to their teenage children, as well as how our parents talked to us when we were at that age. There were some great ideas and points made, and it was reassuring to know that most parents worry that they are not doing things right, and you and your teen are learning together.
According to research 1 in 5 parents are unsure about how to start the puberty conversation – so much so that a quarter avoid the #TeenTalk completely. A couple of the women there admitted to having mums who never told them anything about puberty, and would not discuss it at all. I was very lucky having a mum who was always open about things and happy to talk about any of it that I wanted to. Hopefully as time has moved on mums and dads are more willing and able to chat to their children about difficult issues, and there are less parents who completely refuse to discuss those ’embarrassing’ things. At least in today’s world teens do have access to a lot of information via the internet, if they can’t talk to their parents.
Campaign expert and teenologist Sarah Newton says:
“The ‘#teentalk’ can be awkward because parents and children probably haven’t had a conversation that’s this important yet and we put lots and lots of pressure on ourselves to get it right!”
We talked about how perhaps it is our awkwardness that makes it especially difficult to talk to our teens, rather than theirs. 49% of teens said they were happiest speaking to mum. And 53% of teens are turning to other channels to find information, with 6% of shy teenagers saying that text and Whatsapp makes it easier to talk through awkward topics.
Every child is an individual
The underlying themes that kept coming up as we talked was that you and your teen are in this together; as a parent you don’t have to know everything, and that every child is an individual so treat them as one.
When discussing how to gauge what is too much or too little, Sarah suggested that you base it on the child, and actually ask them. You are navigating it together. Sarah talked about how we put so much pressure on ourselves to be the oracle on everything, but it is actually a good thing to ask your child what they would like you to do about something – it shows you respect them and their opinions. Nadia pointed out that it is important to let your child feel how they are feeling. We as parents, shouldn’t be there to change how they feel, but help them through it, answer any questions they might have, or help teach them how to handle it.
Sometimes, after talking to our children, we may alter our opinions on something because what was right for one child, or even for yourself, might not be the same for this child. Nadia mentioned as an example – you may have decided that you don’t want your young daughter to wear make-up – but if they have lots of spots and confidence is an issue for them, then maybe altering your opinion can help them. Fundamentally it’s important to keep talking to your teens, finding out what you can do to help them through this tough stage of their lives and be aware that they may not always feel like talking to you.
Sarah said how sometimes we are too frightened to ask our kids “Do you want to talk now? When’s right for you?”. She said it’s okay to ask them, but it’s also okay for them to say “Not now, mum”. It’s important we give them their own space, and sometimes let them come to us when they’re ready, rather than pushing them to talk about something they don’t want to, so they don’t come to us next time. Emma, who blogs at Emmaand3 and has older children suggested that talking in a car is good, as the kids can’t escape (haha). Maddie backed her up with that idea, saying “It’s good because you’re not looking at their face”. That just shows that kids don’t always want to feel that pressure of sitting down and having a formal conversation, and that it’s important to do it at a time when they feel comfortable.
Sarah also talked about how we should always give our child the opportunity to fix something themselves, to step back and see what they want to do. It might not be what you were expecting, and they might have a better idea about how to handle something than you. It sends a message to your child “you are capable”. I guess that idea can start from when they are young; I try to let Ava fix something herself, or try to work out how to do something by herself, rather than just doing it for her. She learns, and is then proud of herself for doing something new. If she can’t do it then we can talk about how to do it and she can do it with me – and I think that’s the same at any age.
Having more than one child
We also chatted about having more than one child, and how it is really important that we treat each one as an individual. Just because one way worked with your first child, doesn’t mean that the same thing will be right for your second. It was suggested that if we have more than one child then it’s a good idea to ask each one what they need, and have everyone else in the household respect that.
Parents of boys talked about how they have found it harder to talk to boys, but it’s really important to talk to them too, of course. They are going through a lot of changes too, and some of the mums mentioned how they want their sons to be empathetic to what women are going through. It reiterates the point about treating each child as an individual – it makes sense that your son and your daughter may want to talk about things in a different way, or deal with situations differently. It was reasurring to hear Sarah say though that most boys did say that that they would talk to their mums about stuff.
Another point that made me think was that we shouldn’t hold our children to higher standards than we do ourselves. Yes, we are the parent, and we are ‘in charge’, but, we have to respect how they feel and not decide that they shouldn’t act a certain way. For example, how can we be a moody cow at the time of the month, and yet not let our daughter, who is going through the same thing but probably with even more crazy hormones flying about, be a bit moody occasionally?? Our teenagers are slowly growing into adults, and we should respect them and their feelings.
Top Tips from expert Teenologist, Sarah Newton
“The best parenting tip ever is – just ask them the question. Do you want to talk to me about this or do you want to talk to someone else?”
- Remember what this is about – it’s not just a conversation about puberty but actually it’s a conversation about us as a parent (the most important parent in their life) validating them, honouring them and empowering them with different choices, for the rest of their lives. If you can remember it’s about that it’ll come naturally to relax a little bit. (Love this.)
- Get yourself prepared, as a parent, by getting all the information, because when you’re prepared you’ll feel more confident and you’ll feel more at ease and then of course, your child will feel more at ease.
- Ask your child, how they want to have this conversation – they tell you.
The #TeenTalk Guide
More than half of parents surveyed said that having trusted information at hand would make the approach to #TeenTalk much easier. That’s why, from 11th May to 30th May inclusive, advice from Nadia, Maddie and Sarah will be available exclusively at Boots stores in a free #TeenTalk guide.
The guide gives parents the 101 on topics like the ‘teenage brain’ and teen behaviours, filling them in on what they can expect as they approach ‘the chat’. The guide includes helpful tips on grooming, personal care and body changes, backed up by Nadia and Maddie’s own experiences and aims to get parents and teens talking and, more importantly, to keep the conversation going.
I think it’s a great initiative, and anything that helps parents get a bit more support and even just reassurance that they are not alone is a great thing. I love that Maddie is involved in this, as it’s great to get things from a teens perspective.
As 22% of parents have admitted to being unsure about what products to recommend to their teenagers going through puberty, Boots is offering savings on trusted brands including Always, Tampax, Gillette, Venus and Boots Tea Tree & Witch Hazel products (some of which you can win below!).
Ultimately, we are all learning as we go along, and the resounding message is “be honest and open”. There are no strict rules to adhere to, or specific guidelines to follow when helping our children through this potentially tough stage of their lives and teaching them about what they are going through – we just have to remember to let them know we are there, and to treat them as individuals with different needs and wants.
“It’s about giving them the facts. Being honest but not overwhelming them with information. They will come back and ask more questions when they are ready. Don’t forget that the #TeenTalk isn’t one single chat, but an ongoing conversation about empowerment and choice.”
The thought, for me, of being a parent of a teenager is pretty terrifying, but having this chat really helped to reassure me that no-one really knows exactly what they are doing when it comes to talking to our children about issues such as puberty. As long as we keep talking to our child, listen to them, and let them know we are there for them then we will be okay.
Now you have the chance to win the little bundle of goodies in the picture below…
All you have to do to enter is complete the Rafflecopter widget below – good luck!
For more tips and advice from specialist youth expert, Sarah Newton and product information go to Boots.com/teentalk.