When our teens are going through a rough time it really is hard to think about anything else. Sometimes nothing is actually said but their misery or silence tells you they are suffering.

Maybe you have a teen who chats openly about what is upsetting them. Perhaps they’ll  share how lonely they feel since their best friend teamed up with someone else or how much they hate maths or how dumb they are at reading and how they don’t get anything in English because they’re stupid.

However your teen responds to a tough time chances are you’re desperate to help them find a solution. Talking through the options might be all it takes to find ways through a rough patch but sometimes it isn’t and you wonder if perhaps you need to talk to someone at school.

Many teens are horrified at the thought of any parent / caregiver going anywhere near school and find it hard to believe they could possibly help.

“Don’t tell anyone mum you’ll only make it worse”

“No-one can do anything”

“Don’t be that psycho that goes to school and nuts off”

What’s a parent to do?

As a mum to four children (three of whom have long past their teens) and a learning support teacher of many years I know there is not one answer. Doing nothing and hoping it all comes right on it’s own is possible but I’m all for the proactive approach.

Proactive parenting: Helping your child find a solution

  • Encourage your child to talk to you about what is worrying them. Don’t judge just listen.
  • Maybe they could give you a number from between 1 – 10 to tell you how they are feeling. If they say 5, you could ask “What would need to happen to make you score a 6?”
  • Explore what they feel they could do to make the changes they want to see.

Empowering our kids to find creative solutions can have some unexpected and wonderful results however sometimes we need to step in. When young people are overwhelmed or the concerns are serious ring someone at school and go in for a meeting. The Deans or counsellors are a great place to start and  good people to team up with to find a solution to a complex problem.

A team of people to support your child and to brainstorm a way forward can provide a wrap around approach that is effective and comforting. When one of my daughters found even attending school a challenge, we would meet at school with the Dean , the school nurse and the counsellor, and change timetables, add in rest periods, talk through strategies and ideas and come up with a plan we were all happy with. It was such a relief to share what we were going through and have the support of the team behind my daughter when she was at school and I could not be there.

Maybe that makes me a psycho mum in the eyes of a teen but when my girl looks back on her school years she thinks of the help and support that was there for her. It made her feel special and worthwhile and that is what she remembers regardless of the many challenges she faced at the time.

I think we also taught our daughter that help may be there if you ask. That she did not have to cope on her own and that other people, apart from her parents, cared and wanted to help her. That even in the darkest of times we need not walk alone.

All the best


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Julie Mulcahy is married to Peter, a Primary School Principal and is descended from a long line of teachers. She has taught Years 4 through to Year 13, moved from country schools in Bay of Plenty, Waikato and Northland and spent the past 10 years in Auckland where works in a high school.

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