Home, and family, can be a much-needed haven when the rest of the world becomes too much. So, how do we go about it?
A couple of weeks ago I was watching a documentary about “crazed” One Direction fans. It struck me that, despite some of the reckless behaviour many of the (exclusively female) fans displayed in their efforts to reach their heroes, their passion and enthusiasm was something quite magical that was being quite cruelly mocked. To their credit, One Direction are an appreciative band who appear to have a lot of time for their fans and had nothing to do with the documentary. But the message was clear, in the title alone: “Crazy about One Direction”.
Teenage girls are a unique breed. They are passionate, dedicated and deeply emotional which makes them the perfect target for multi-billion pound marketing ploys. Looking to the documentary, the enthusiasm for music is one of the most common creative/artistic outlets for teenage girls and is something that is often considered a weakness. Whilst marketing strategies do seek to prey on their love for certain musicians, such a deeply passionate response is not something I would personally consider to be a bad thing. One Direction might not be my thing, but I’m no music snob; if you love it and if it means something to you, who has the right to decide what qualifies as respectable or artistic?
It is in this stage of life that these passions are born and, with the right guidance, can go on to become an important part of how they express themselves and, for some, the sort of career they aspire to. As a child, I was always involved in writing poetry and short stories but it was my teenage years that led to my full appreciation for literature and I spent a great deal of time writing. I kept a private book of poetry that I used to express my emotional turmoil and it helped me through a great many difficult experiences. I was lucky to have a supportive family who appreciated my enthusiasm and a teacher who offered me a lot of her time in helping me to improve my technique. A lot of people believed in me and, as a result, I have won many prizes over the year and now enjoy writing professionally.
Along with marketing strategies, social pressures are another important issue for teenagers and the prevalence of social media has led to growing concerns over problems such as cyber bullying and peer pressure. If they aren’t on facebook, where they often find themselves saying things they wouldn’t dream of saying face-to-face, they’re sharing a lot of personal information or uploading provocative pictures to instagram. Heck, they’re even on ask.fm candidly responding to the kinds of personal questions we, as parents, have absolutely no desire to know the answers to. And while this doesn’t apply to all teenagers, it’s a growing problem for many and parents are finding themselves increasingly out of their depth.
As social beings trapped in a fairly anti-social societal set-up, the internet is an understandably attractive way to feel connected to our peers. The level of connectedness, however, is the main problem. With a smart-phone always on the go, we never have to miss a single thing. But, this often comes at the expense of family-time and the ability to dis-connect and just be. Increasingly, this sort of constant social connectedness is proving detrimental to the wellbeing of vulnerable teenagers. Since we cannot change the ever changing face of social media, and we can never (and should never) hope to control our children’s social expression, what needs to happen requires an authentic, person-to-person connection with parents.
Social commentary as your teenager grows and explores the internet and social media is an important way of helping them learn to be responsible and self-aware. If they know what to expect, and if they understand the consequences of certain behaviours and actions then they are significantly less likely to find themselves in difficult situations. Encouraging self-respect, however, is the single most important way to ensure that your teenage daughter remains safe and secure both online and offline. The key, in all of this, is respecting their ability to make good decisions for themselves and not being too imposing and fearful.
Cherishing your teenage daughter is easy. She is beautiful, passionate and capable of great things. With the right guidance, respect and a loving family she will grow to be a strong and resourceful young woman. And, whilst you will inevitably have your run-ins, treating her as your equal will ensure you maintain a loving relationship.