Parents need to listen to teenagers

Our understanding of mental health is so poor that we still see mental health as a euphemism for mental illness. So says therapist Enda Murphy in the pages of his new book, Flagging the Screenager.
Written by Enda and Dr Harry Barry, the book aims to guide parents as their child grows from adolescence into young adulthood. But this is not like any other parenting book.  In fact, I would say it’s essential reading for anyone who comes into contact with young people.
Why? Because young people are not coping with life. Many struggle to survive in our modern world. In 2011, 145 young people between the ages of 15 and 29 died by suicide and many thousands more self-harm.
So why is this happening and what can we do about it?
Enda Murphy and Dr Harry Barry believe mental health is not something to be learned in our twenties and thirties, rather it’s a skill and insight to be practiced every day.
Alarmingly, the book reveals that the vast majority of significant mental illness, 75%, appears when people are between the ages of 13 and 25.
Triggered by brain development and life stressors during this time, Enda and Harry suggest it’s important that our children are taught some basic facts about life which can help them cope during this time.
Namely that:
Life is not fair
We don’t always get what we want
We have to learn to accept discomfort as part of life
We can’t control life
We may fail at some things in life but are never in ‘ourselves’ failures
It is normal to be anxious
The physical symptoms of anxiety are uncomfortable but not dangerous.
Flagging the Screenager is filled to the brim with advice on how children’s brain’s work, how they actually think and how we can parent them. It should be compulsory reading for every parent and everyone about to become one.
Enda and Harry are at pains to point out that no-one, including themselves, is a perfect parent but that we can help our children to deal with life and its many problems, by listening to them.
It seems a maddeningly simple solution, but most of us do not take the time to hear what our children are telling us, according to the authors. In fact, they argue that most parents have so many misconceptions about teenagers and what they want that they are incapable of understanding them.
Flagging the Screenager says that while it seems that raising children is a constant struggle, in reality it is incredibly simple. Enda and Harry suggest effective parenting can be summed up in three points:
Learn to listen
Learn to identify
Learn to teach them how to understand and live in their world.
I was going to say that I wished every parent of a child in sixth class was given this book as essential reading but I think parents of younger children could learn a lot from this book too, about their children and about themselves. A must read…
Flagging the Screenager – guiding your child through adolescence and young adulthood  by Dr Harry Barry and Enda Murphy is published by Liberties Press and costs €14. 99.

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