Teenage Mentoring


    I had an alarming conversation with a group of 17-19 year olds during an Easter workshop. The topic of relationships came up – I found it very upsetting to learn of the behaviour of girls and boys as young as 12 years of age. This behaviour is accepted among many as ‘normal’ – there lies my concern. I am obviously not talking about all kids but I am talking about many. I worry that the lack of self-respect (both online and face to face) is a growing concern.
    A few issues that really worried me;
    1. Girls putting up pictures of themselves in underwear online – as young as 12 years of age.
    2. Boys expecting girls to want to ‘please’ them regardless of the fact that they are not in a relationship.
    3. Boys discussing girls performance online.
    4. Boys choosing who they want to kiss in discos/parties – girls standing around waiting to be picked out only for the boy to move onto the next girl.
    I am afraid we have gone back 100 years here – please speak to your kids about self-respect, about what relationships should be like, about behaving in a way they are happy and comfortable with, not just to be in with the crowd. Listen to your kids if they do not want to go to discos/parties- maybe they are trying to protect themselves.
    I am going to talk to a few schools that I work with to suggest the possibility of 5th years talking to 2nd years to give them a bit of advice. To help them to make the right decisions for themselves. The group I spoke to said this would have been a great support for them at their age. They agreed that things are definitely getting worse. Social Media and American tv obviously have a huge impact on this. This is the world our kids are growing up in – they need education in this area, they need support, they need to understand the meaning of self-respect. I think it is a very hard time to be a teenager, we need to help them to deal with this ever changing world.
    If you have any queries relating to this please do not hesitate to contact me.
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    Why Parents Need to Show Their True Feelings

    What is one of the most important qualities of a healthy relationship? Authenticity – being who we are, the good, the bad and the ugly. Being authentic creates openness, connection and trust.

    Where does that leave us as parents – how much of our emotional selves should we put away and how much should we share with our kids.

    There is not a person on the planet who does not get sad, cranky, scared, or lonely, from time to time. Sometimes these feelings can stay around for a while. When our kids see or sense that there is something ‘not quite right’, they will watch us even closer than normal. If we do not explain why we are feeling a certain way, they will worry and come up with their own answers.

    Mom and daughter hands, outdoors

    We have a tendency to put on a brave face, to try to hide our upsetting emotions but is this the right thing to do?

    In my experience, both personally as a parent, and in working with other kids, this can be very confusing and upsetting for kids. We need to be as honest as possible and explain why we are upset, angry, lonely or sad as this will help our kids to understand it is ‘ok’ to feel like this. I do not mean to share our innermost feelings but possibly to explain, in an age appropriate way, why we are upset, sad etc. Difficult emotions can become threatening when they come with a bag load of unknowns. All feelings are part of living a healthy, happy, fulfilled life, once we know how to handle them, and this is what we need to pass on to our kids.
    Coping skills for kids is such an important part of their development and they need us to equip them with the necessary tools to enable them to deal with whatever may come their way.

    When our kids see us being ok with our troubled feelings it gives them permission to do the same. They won’t have the skills to manage them all for a while, and that’s ok. What’s important is that they see that everyone feels bad sometimes, and that they have opportunities to learn how to deal with these emotions in a healthy manner.

    Nobody is perfect, we can only do our best, and our best is good enough.

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    What is happiness? How can we pass this on to our kids?

    Recent research suggests that happiness is a combination of how satisfied you are with your life (for example, finding meaning in your work) and how good you feel on a day-to-day basis.
    Think of it like you think about weight: if you eat how you want to and are as active as you want to be, your body will settle at a certain weight. But if you eat less than you’d like or exercise more, your weight will adjust accordingly. If that new diet or exercise regimen becomes part of your everyday life, then you’ll stay at this new weight. If you go back to eating and exercising the way you used to, your weight will return to where it started. So it goes, too, with happiness. You have to train your thoughts and feelings. Try to remember physical and mental health are both important, you cannot have one without the other.  Both need effort to make lasting changes.
    You have the ability to control how you feel—and with consistent practice, you can form life-long habits for a more satisfying and fulfilling life. Try to notice when you feel happy –
    Where are you?
    Who are you with?
    What are you doing?
    Remember when you feel happiest and try to do more of it – whether it is spending time with friends or family, spending time at work or playing sport, painting or reading, get to know what makes YOU happy.

    There are too many people (adults and kids) looking for happiness in the wrong places – looking to make money, trying to hang out with the ‘right’ people, getting the ‘good’ jobs, trying to look ‘perfect’(whatever that is), sound ‘perfect’, dress ‘perfect’ – STOP. Social media has a huge impact on what we and our kids perceive as ‘perfect’, perceive as success, perceive as happiness.

    It is when we stop ‘trying’ so hard to fit into a very insecure idea of what can bring us happiness, that we may finally find true happiness. Personally, I know I have distanced myself from people I find negative and people who tend to spend a lot of time bitching and talking about others, because I know I do not feel good when I am with them. I try to spend as much time as I can with people who raise my energy levels, who make me feel warm inside, make me laugh out loud, make me feel safe and secure. Family for me is huge, for me there is no better time than sitting with my family, watching a movie, all cuddled up together on the couch (don’t get me wrong, this is not a daily occurrence) but I know it makes me happy. Spending time with my girlfriends is high up on my list, as I am lucky to have such great people in my life who understand me (most of the time) and who make me laugh out loud. I am extra lucky that I found a job that I am so passionate about. But, of course there will be days when I may feel sad, upset, alone (although I may be surrounded by people), and on these days I try to acknowledge these feelings and try to do something that will help me to lift my energy again to balance myself.
    We will all feel off balance from time to time – (parenting can push our buttons until we feel we could explode), but we need to understand these feelings are very normal. Whether it is family, jobs, friends or society that can bring us down, we have to acknowledge our feelings, so we can learn to deal with them in a positive way and move on.
    Why are so many people unhappy?

    Maybe it is the long grey Winter we have had.
    Maybe it is the far too busy lives we lead.
    Maybe it is the constant trying to be too much to too many.
    Whatever it is, please find someone to talk to – share your feelings out loud – be truly honest with yourself – get professional help if you need to but do NOT let another day go by without talking to someone and acknowledging your feelings. Remember it is ‘normal’ to feel down, to feel lonely, to feel alone, to feel frustrated, to feel confused – the important part is to talk to someone, get the support you need. You have to look after yourself first if you want to be able to support anyone else in your life.
    There are numerous people out there who can help you. You just need to take that first step – no-one can do that for you.
    Try to pass this message onto your kids as they need to understand what ‘real’ happiness means. What ‘normal’ feelings are and how important it is to learn to acknowledge them and to deal with them in a positive way. Talk to them about your feelings as this shows them it is ok to have negative feelings. If everyone was a bit more honest about their true feelings, it just might normalise so much for so many.
    Sometimes we are constantly running around trying to get fit, work hard, look great, be everything to everyone, and this can be a problem if it means we have no down time, no time to sit and talk to our kids, no time to listen to what is going on in their lives, no time to show them and to tell them how much we love them. Take a few minutes and really think about your life; it is never too late to make changes.
    Are you leading the life you want to lead?
    Are you spending enough time with the people who mean most to you?

    Are you making sure you have balance in your life?
    Do you know what is going on in your child’s life?
    Do you spend a few minutes every day talking to them?

    In my job I see a lot of lonely kids, kids who may have it all materialistically but who crave ‘time’ and ‘understanding’ from those they love the most in the world, those they look up to most in the world, those they mimic most in the world – their parent(s). Don’t underestimate how much they need you, whatever age they are, you are their parent and you will always be the most important person in their lives. Even 5 minutes a day is going to make a huge difference to them, if that 5 minutes is 100% for them and them alone. If your kids see you leading a balanced life, understanding what real happiness is, you are setting them up for a balanced happy life themselves. If they see you making changes to get a more balanced life, you are teaching them the life skill that we can all control our lives and we can all make changes to be in a better place.
    You are their number 1 Role Model.

    “What a child does not see, he can seldom later give.”

    – P D James

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    We email, text, book holidays, meet partners, shop and maintain friendships online – never before have our kids and teens needed help connecting face to face.

    There are many positives to social media but unfortunately fewer opportunities to connect face to face, which can leave many kids and teens confused, upset, lonely and isolated on a daily basis.

    Kids learn by watching what is going on around them. They will learn by trial and error, just as we did. The more effort we make in teaching them social skills and the more they see us connecting face to face with our peers they better for them.

    Kids generally start out as being self-centred. It’s important for their development to understand where they fit in the world. Social Media instil a constant need for kids to think about themselves, how they look, what they are doing, how many friends they have etc. At some stage they need to move this awareness to outside of themselves and notice the world and the people around them. To become less self-centred.

    Here are some ways to guide them along;
    Let them speak
    Give them the opportunities to be ‘fully’ listened to. Give them time, let them understand the benefits of someone giving ‘time’ to a family member or friend. Let them know the feeling of having your full and undivided attention, this will teach them the skills of listening to others. They are living in a world where everything is rushed and patience is a becoming a thing of the past. Being in the ‘now’ with you once in a while will show them the importance of opening up and talking about their feelings face to face. It will give them the skills to talk to others.

    Gently help them to open their minds to other opinions
    Encourage their opinions, even if they are different to your own. Try not to interrupt them and jump in with your own opinions. To be able to appreciate another’s point of view is an essential life skill. Show them how to open up to other people and other opinions by helping them to open up to their own.

    Let them see you take a stand.
    It is an important lesson kids realise that they don’t have to connect with everyone or like everyone, but if they are going to pull away, they need to do it respectfully and not for the sake of it or just because that person may be different. Let them see you make a stand with people and situations, explain to them the reasons why you made a stand and how you made your stand.

    Help them to connect with beauty in all its versions.
    When we see or experience beauty in any form, we connect with it – whether its in nature, music, art or people. Beautiful was never meant to mean perfect. Beauty is flawed, different , quirky, interesting, non-conforming, ragged, unique. Help them to set their lens to a diverse definition of ‘beautiful’ by pointing it out when you see it. They are bombarded by a false unreal definition of beauty daily online, let them borrow your lens and learn from your lens – what you see, they will see too.

    Build empathy
    Expand their awareness of other people and what others might be feeling, by encouraging them to look at people from a different point of view. They are living in a very fast paced world where people can be viewed and judged in a matter of seconds, without any thought for the actual person and what they may be feeling and/or what they might be going through at that time. Empathy is a necessary social skill to make and keep friendships and relationships throughout life.
    When they tell you about something that has happened try to encourage a different point of view…’What do you think she was feeling when that happened?’ ‘What do you think would have been a nice thing to happen next?’ ‘How would you feel if that happened you?’ ‘If that was you, what could someone say to help you feel better?’
    The best lessons we will give our kids is through real life situations.

    They are important, but so is everyone else.
    We want to build our kids self-confidence and let them know how amazing they are and how important they are to us, but without letting them believe they are ‘more’ important, more deserving or more entitled that anyone else. Arrogance is the enemy of connection. Nurture their open, warm hearts and their capacity to connect and be seen, by encouraging them to see the strengths and the goodness in others as well as themselves.
    Being able to connect with others easily is not always a given but these skills can always be learned. It does take deliberate teaching and we, as parents, grandparents, carers, teachers, are in a powerful position to do that. Relationships are such an important part of life and being able to initiate and maintain healthy ones is a vital life skill. All kids will learn most from the adults around them. We have the privileged and vital role of guiding and nurturing them alone the way.

    “The single biggest problem in COMMUNICATION is the illusion that it has taken place.” – George Bernard Shaw

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    How To Get Your Child To Talk To You

    Listen and hold your tongue.

    Kids want to be heard. They want to be understood. If we rush in to give our opinion – they aren’t going to feel heard or understood. Bite your tongue – literally if you have to. This simple and obvious skill took me a long time to master. Silence is uncomfortable, but very necessary.

    What I have learned is that some kids don’t verbalise their feelings quickly. When I nod and show I am listening – they tend to continue to talk. They continue to tell me more.

    Do not give advice – unless it is wanted.

    The number one complaint I hear from kids (my own included!) is that they do not want our advice. Well that’s confusing? Your daughter cries to you about her friend drama or your son talks about the mean kids on the bus. You naturally move in with your words of wisdom. It can be very hard to hold back on this one. Try to listen first, let they get it all out without interruption.

    Sit with their feelings for a bit. Commiserate about how that must have made them feel.  Sentences like, “That must have been so hard” or “That must have made you so angry” will help continue the conversation.  Just hold your tongue!

    When your child is done venting ask them, “What do you think you’ll do about it?” Hear what they have to say. If you have advice at this point, soften it with something like, “there might be another option. You can…” This will help your child feel like you are working with them and not lecturing them.  Try not to jump in with your advice before they are finished talking.  Very often if we listen to them, and let them get it all out, they will end up solving the problem themselves.

    How you word things can be the small change that makes a big difference.

    Do not ask direct questions – instead say something like, “I wonder…” In front of your sentence. For instance:

    Your son tells you he is angry at his best friend and he is never going to talk to him again. Instead of saying:

    “What did he do to you?”

    You might say:

    “Oh, you seem so angry. What happened?”

    Sounds pretty much the same – I know. But, trust me – it makes a difference. Most kids (not all) are more likely to answer the second question. Especially if you stay silent after making the comment.

    Change sentences like:

    “What is good about it?” or “What is bad about it?”


    “What is the best part about it?” or “What is the worst part about it?”

    For some reason – the first sentence can sound judgmental, while the second is acknowledging the feeling and asking for them to tell you more. Just try it out yourself and you will see what works for you.

    Every child is different. Every conversation is different.

    Every child needs someone they can go to when there are troubled, worried or confused about something.  Who will they go to if that person is not you – the internet, their peers?  Is this what you want?

    NOBODY knows your child as well as you do. Ensure the person they go to is YOU!




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    COMMUNICATION – -PART 2 (11 yrs – 18 yrs)



    11 years – 18 years

    Teenagers are naturally anxious or insecure about where they fit in the world. Part of their own development is getting an understanding of what relationships they want or need in their lives. What really matters to them is who they matter to and who values them. They are very good at detecting who is genuine in wanting to connect and communicate with them, and who has other motives.

    Tweens and teens are trying to become independent of you, their parents.   This is part of their psychological development at this stage – there are certain things parents need to know and much more importantly there are certain things parents do not need to know.  Give them their privacy.

    We need to give our kids trust. They need to believe we trust them – without trust we have nothing. I would always suggest ‘trust them until they give you a reason not to’. If they believe you trust them, they are unlikely to break that trust easily – If they believe you do not trust them, they may feel like they have nothing to break.

    Try not to make decisions about your teenager to please others – family, neighbours, friend’s parents. You know your own child, listen to yourself.

    The most effective way to communicate with teenagers is to show an interest in what they are doing. Let them know you are always there for them. Let them know they can come to you for help and advice, no matter what.
    Have a time in the day that you both know ye can talk to each other – in the car, at bedtime, dinnertime, whatever works for your family.

    If your teenager comes to you and you are openly shocked by what they have told you and react in a negative way, they may not come to you again. If you are shocked, try to take a breath, suggest you talk about it later on – give yourself time to take in what they said and then to act in a reasonable understanding manner, try to remember how you felt when you were a teen. If you react dramatically and negatively and are not supportive/understanding, it may be the last time they come to you with serious matters.  This does not mean you do not address the situation, it means you address the situation calmly and rationally.

    Do not break your trust with them – if they ask you not to say anything to anyone else, keep your word. If your teen hears you on the phone later to family or friends telling them about your conversation, this may also  stop your teen coming to you again.

    If communication has broken down, for whatever reason, do everything in your power to build it up again. Write to them, text them – just be sure to communicate with them. Do not harass them, do not badger them, this may push them away. Take it slowly, one step at a time.

    You know your own child better than anyone else.  Trust your gut.  Do not be afraid to ask for advice from someone you trust or someone in the parenting field.

    Feel free to email me should you have any concerns in this area.


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    How can we help our kids to discover their Gifts & Talents?

    Using the 7 Types of Intelligences to Help Your Kids Discover Their Gifts & Talents

    Grades, “IQ” tests, and other standardised tests have caused major debates amongst parents and the education community because many believe they don’t measure the “whole child”.

    Although these tests might predict how a child will perform in school, they don’t predict which children will become powerful leaders, accomplished composers, unique artists, great musicians, creative inventors, professional athletes, top-ranked sales people, inspirational teachers, spiritual leaders, or great writers.

    In his ground breaking book “Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences”, Harvard Psychology Professor Howard Gardner asked a different question. Instead of asking “How smart are you?” he asked the question “How are you smart?”

    What a powerful question for parents to explore with their kids!

    In his book Gartner outlines 7 different segments of intelligence. Although each person exhibits some level of ability in all areas, most people tend to shine in two or three areas. As parents and mentors we have an opportunity to help our kids explore each of these segments in more depth so they can discover and further develop their natural talents and abilities.

    The 7 intelligences are grouped into what Gardner calls three different “frames of mind”:
    Linguistic Intelligence and Logical-mathematical Intelligence which are categorised as “academic” and emphasised by public schools and IQ tests.
    Musical Intelligence, Bodily-kinesthetic Intelligence, and Visual-spatial Intelligence which tend to be categorised as artistic abilities.
    Interpersonal Intelligence and Intrapersonal Intelligence which are categorised as “people skills”.

    Let’s understand each in more detail and look at how we can help our kids explore each area.

    Linguistic Intelligence
    Children with strong linguistic intelligence tend to think in words. They love to read, write, play word games, study foreign languages, etc. Professions include areas such as writers, journalists, interpreters, and attorneys. If you think your child has talent in this area, he can explore it further by participating in a journalism club or debate club, by writing, or by studying a foreign language.

    Logical-mathematical Intelligence
    Children with strong logical-mathematical intelligence tend to think conceptually. They love numbers, patterns, mathematics, and science. Professions include areas such as engineering, computer science, research science, medicine, and accounting. Schools provide a lot of opportunities for children to explore this area of intelligence.

    Visual-spatial Intelligence
    Children with strong spatial intelligence are strong at working in three dimensions. They tend to love maps, models, and building things. Professions include areas such as architecture and interior design, photography, engineering, and mechanics. You can help your child develop in this area by giving her models to build (including Legos!), having her create maps, or by taking a photography class.

    Bodily-kinesthetic Intelligence
    Children with strong Kinesthetic Intelligence tend to process knowledge through physical touch. They will learn more by doing an activity versus reading about the activity. Professions include areas such as sports, dancing, theatre, firefighter, and any work that requires them to be good with their hands. If you think your child has a natural intelligence in this area encourage her to explore many avenues of physical expression – sports, dance, acting, sewing, woodworking, etc.

    Musical Intelligence
    Children with strong musical intelligence tend to think in terms of sounds and rhythms. Professions include areas such as performing and/or composing music. Encourage your child to study a musical instrument, participate in a choir, and explore a wide variety of music genres.

    Interpersonal Intelligence
    Children with strong interpersonal intelligence understand people – they are good with communication, relationships, and getting along with others. Professions include areas such as teaching, counselling, marketing and sales, management, non-profits, medicine, and politics. Provide opportunities for your child to work with and lead others. Examples include participating in Boy Scouts/Girl Scouts, mentoring programs, volunteer organisations, and other clubs.

    Intra personal Intelligence
    Children with strong intra personal intelligence really understand themselves. They are deep thinkers and tend to be self-motivated. Professions include writing, philosophy, psychology, clergy, and art. If your child exhibits strengths in this area, give her time to be alone to think and create.

    So why is understanding these areas of intelligence so important?

    First, if your child tends to struggle in the traditional classroom finding other areas where he can excel can greatly enhance his self-esteem and joy in life. Whenever kids feel they are good at something it enhances their self-esteem and self-confidence.

    Second, when kids understand more about “how they are smart”, it enables them to choose extracurricular activities, classes, and careers that leverage their strengths and natural abilities.

    And finally, even if your child does well in school, exploring all areas of intelligence will empower your kids to find their passion and purpose in life. When people create lives based on a passion and a sense of purpose they tend to live happy fulfilling lives. They also excel at whatever profession they choose because they are passionate about it and believe they can make a difference.
    It is so important to help our kids learn to understand their own talents and believe in them. If we, their parents cannot believe in them – who will?
    How many of us ended up in careers for the wrong reasons?
    How many of us would have made different choices if we had someone behind us who believed in us, whatever our strengths were?

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    Mid-Term Break – try not to make it a stressful time!

    Mid-Term break – ‘break’ is quite a funny word to use. Most houses can find mid-term hard; as parents may be working, weather can be terrible, kids can get bored easily and overall it can be very costly. Sometimes the kids go to daily camps, sometimes playdates can be planned and sometimes kids just remain under mothers feet at home all day.
    I remember the days when my 4 kids were under 8 years of age, dreading mid-term break – dreading the constant planning of playdates and trying to keep them all entertained. Now as my kids are 11- 18years – one in College, one working part-time, one happy to remain in bed and one still looking for entertainment, I look back on the days we could all watch a movie together, plan a day out together, plan a couch day together and I am as surprised as anyone else to admit I miss those days. My kids now seem to go in 4 different directions most days and I cherish the odd days that we find ourselves in the same space!!
    My advice is to try to make the most of these times, as they are all under your roof, as they do go by faster than you can imagine.
    Take out that board game, even though there may be 1000 other things you could be doing, start the baking, even though you dread the mess, plan that outing/walk even though it may take a lot of encouragement – don’t let these days slip by ……. these are the memories your kids will remember in years to come. I guarantee you these are the days they will remember when they are parenting themselves. Teach your kids that spending time together is very important, having fun together is very important, talking to each other is very important. These lessons will go with them through life. It is great for your kids to see you laugh out loud, get competitive (not ott) when playing board games with them, joking with each other – all too often they remember us shouting at them, looking at them as though they really are in our way, or just simply ignoring there plea for attention.
    Parenting is the hardest job we will ever have and although is can be the most frustrating, upsetting and confusing time it can also be the most rewarding.

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