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Published August 18th 2016
Informative and engaging talk by a leading adolescent expert
As a parent of pre-teens, the teenage years sound more than a little scary, having to contend with and manage issues such as cyber-bullying, stress, drugs and sex. With so many horror stories and negative statistics in the news, it's understandable for parents to feel overwhelmed, anxious and helpless. Apart from crossing your fingers and hoping for the best, it's good to know there are some other things parents can do to help their children through adolescence.
How will you help your children through the difficult adolescent years?
I recently attended a free community forum at a local school called Raising Happy and Resilient Children by Dr Michael Carr-Gregg. You have probably already heard of Dr Carr-Gregg. He is a psychologist who works with children and adolescents, specialising in the area of parenting adolescents and adolescent mental health. He is known for his many books on the subject and for his role as the parenting expert on Sunrise on Channel Seven. He has also worked as an academic, co-founded CanTeen (the support group for teenage cancer patients), is the Agony Uncle for Girlfriend magazine and is a founding member of the National Centre Against Bullying. As a parent himself, and with his many years of experience in the field, he is highly qualified to present on this topic.
Adolescent psychologist Dr Michael Carr-Gregg (Image Credit: Michael Carr-Gregg)
The forum began with a welcome disclaimer: "There is no such thing as a perfect parent". While this may seem obvious it is good to be reassured that the goal is not perfection but doing our best to help our children navigate through the challenging issues.
Statistics show that the psychological health of children is far worse today than a generation ago. In fact, one-quarter of young Australians report experiencing symptoms of mental illness. That is a particularly scary statistic. The major issues of concern for young people include stress, school or study, body image and depression.
So how do we help our kids with these serious issues? Dr Carr-Gregg recommends immunising children against risk factors by building resilience.
Resilience is defined as a capacity to face, overcome and be strengthened by adversity. Instead of shielding children from adversity there are some key characteristics we can try to promote in our children to encourage resilience. These are:
having a charismatic adult in their life from which they can draw strength. This may be a parent or could be another adult (friend or family member) who is a positive role model for them
developing social and emotional competencies such as how to solve problems, manage anger etc usually by modelling such behaviour yourself
islands of competence - find something than interests them, where they get positive recognition from their peers. In other words help them to find their spark, whether it be an interest in art, music, dance, drama, sport etc.
spirituality - children that are bound to a belief system feel a sense of connectedness and part of something bigger than themselves
Dr Carr-Gregg then spoke about common mistakes that parents make with their children:
Not saying No - you need to make it clear who is the boss
Not setting limits and boundaries - for sleep, diet, social media, sex, drugs etc
Not monitoring peers
Not being the world expert on them (know what is going on in their life)
Not having rituals and traditions
Not communicating properly
Giving them everything they want
Not keeping them busy
Not letting them experience adversity
Dr Carr-Gregg has a common-sense, no-nonsense approach to parenting and you can rest assured that there is no "psychobabble" during this talk. He is engaging, entertaining and very relatable using humourous anecdotes from his own life and work experience as examples. He also gives advice and key messages for building happiness and leaves us with a powerful and persuasive quote from Frederick Douglass,
"It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men".
Books by Michael Carr-Gregg - he has written a number of books including Strictly Parenting, Surviving Year 12 and Surviving Adolescents:to name just a few
At the end of the session Dr Carr-Gregg was happy to take questions from the audience and suggest ways to approach particular concerns. For concerned parents it is an informative and enjoyable forum and if you have the opportunity to attend one of his talks I would highly recommend it.