04 September 2012

How To Really Love Your Teenager by Ross Campbell

I finished the last page of How To Really Love Your Child and then headed straight into the first page of How to Really Love Your Teenager.  This too is a very helpful book and one that I will be reading again. Up front, there were a couple of things that I didn't like so much about this one - a few too many anecdotes in this particular volume and occasional comment or idea that I didn't really agree with - but these are perhaps personal dislikes.
However there is lots to like.
Especially that Ross Campbell offers hope.  He seems to work with people of all ages but of all the possible age groups to choose from, I think he loves teenagers the best.  He adores them.  And he desperately, achingly wants teenagers and their parents to thrive together through these years.  This book is full of hope - and I think it is a realistic, attainable hope.
Early up in the book Campbell makes the comment that we ought not to regard teenagers as adults.  They are still in essence children, albeit children that are getting quite big and independent.  Which is not to say that they are not capable of great maturity.  In the face of their growing independence and capabilities it can be easy to regard teenagers as fully fledged, independent adults when in fact they still require their parents' love. This is a helpful principle to keep handy.  It's a bit like the warning I read when I was immersed in baby books...that when you stop breastfeeding a baby the amount of physical contact they receive - because the close contact of feeding has stopped and because they quickly become toddlers on the go - often decreases by more than 50%.  And more so with boys.  Yet they still thrive on lots of physical contact.  I was glad to be wised up to this advice ahead of time.  And I am glad to have been made aware of this not dissimilar trap with teenagers ahead of time.
How then to love your teenager?  In much the same way you love a child, according to Campbell.  Keeping their emotional tanks full with lots of positive eye contact, lots of appropriate physical contact and lots of focussed attention.  And focussed attention is the particularly big ticket item - the one where parents of teenagers get to put in the hard yards.  He is very clear that once our children are teenagers we don't get to lie back on the sofa with our cups of tea and read our books (or whatever your equivalent idea of blissful relaxation might be), with all that hard, physical toil of raising children behind us.  No...there are more hours to be genuinely and lovingly spent with our offspring, and in the teenage years they will likely be at times inconvenient to us - and how we respond when they need some time from us is important.
Beyond the principles common to both books, Campbell spends lots of time discussing teenager moodiness, anxiety, anger and general rollercoaster-ness.  He seems to get teenagers and I have found reading his insights useful.  There is a chapter on teenage depression - and with a good amount of time given to detailing the difference between normal teenage behaviour and behaviour that needs help from health professionals.  There is another chapter on how to move from parent control to self control.  And a chapter for parents about parental self-control. 
What I love about the Teenager book, as I have said, is that Campbell clearly adores teenagers and desperately wants parents to do well with them.  And he gives parents every hope that they can indeed navigate these years with great joy and success.  I think this book is realistic and I think it gives a good pattern for positive relationship.  He doesn’t ever suggest that it will be a walk in the park or suggest he is offering a foolproof programme. This is no "Supernanny for Teenagers." He offers guidelines, insight and hope.  Campbell also makes it clear that you can’t think things are ever too far gone for this to be of help as we all respond well to genuine, sincere, consistent love - sometimes quickly and sometimes with time.
I am no teenager expert.  As soon as a child walks out that final year primary school classroom door for the last time I have zero expertise.  Having read How To Really Love Your Teenager I feel forewarned and forearmed with a positive approach to the second decade of a child's life.  No doubt there are sqillions of other books around on this topic and squillions of other approaches too.  For now, to my untrained eyes, this one looks ok and like it might be a good launch pad. 

In a bit over a decade's time I will let you know how it all went.  Feel free to offer your view and your best advice along the way.

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