Alicia Drummond knows what she’s talking about. Mother to two teenage daughters she has experienced first-hand what every parent of adolescents goes through and she isn’t scared of sharing her personal experiences. She is also a psychotherapist working with teenagers in schools and runs workshops for petrified parents on how best to help guide their children through these tricky teenage years and how to emerge unscathed and still communicating.
“Our job is to stand beside them as they make the transition from child to independent thinking adults,” says Drummond, who was educated at Queen Margaret’s School, York. “We want our children to be able go out into the world as confident young adults and this adolescent stage is key to that.”
Key to understanding teenagers, says Drummond, is to understand that their brain.
“Their brain set up at this age means they are looking for maximum thrill but with minimum sense. They are also seeking independence and identity. They need to separate from us and find where they fit in,” she says, a concept some parents find difficult to swallow.,
“Once you realise they they see things differently it is easier to understand the way they react to us and handle the situation accordingly.”
As they change and become more independent, then so must our role as a parent change. “Step out of the nanny role and start coaching,” says Drummond who has just published her first book, Why Every Teenager Needs a Parrot: Tips for parenting 21st century teenagers, It includes everything from alcohol and drugs, relationships and pornography to social media, on-line safety and gaming.,
“I want people to find the parts in it which are useful to them.” It is a similar ethos to her four-hour Let’s Talk Teens workshops for parents, one of which I recently attended in North Yorkshire Drummond starts by asking the audience to sum up their teenager and predictably the majority of comments were pretty negative – everything from sulky and unhelpful to aggressive and rude. This is the crux of the problem, says Drummond in a gentle, non-judgmental and friendly tone. “If we view teenagers in a negative way then that is what we will get more of,” she says. “Notice the things you like about them and tell them – verbally or by text, MSN, anything to get the message across. We all love to be stroked. Focus on and reward the positive.”
She advocates “descriptive praise” as a motivator and reflective listening as a way of finding out exactly what is troubling your teen.
“Teenagers, like everyone else like to be praised, and is far better to give them a full description of their positive actions. It give them more confidence.”
Drummond’s workshops are full of examples, many from her experience of working with teenagers and also her own children Eliza, 18 and Daisy, 16. She says teenagers have got to be allowed to make their own mistakes, to experiment as they try to find their own identity. “It is what they are supposed to do. They are trying to find out where they fit in. You cannot be there all the time, hence why every teenager needs a parrot.”
• Why Every Teenager Needs a Parrot by Alicia Drummond (£11) from www.lets-talk.uk.com