The Musical Every Teenager Is Talking About

The Musical Every Teenager Is Talking About

Are you a fan of musicals or plays?  It's a question that can divide a room.  It's a bit like being a coffee or a tea drinker.  You tend to fall into one of the two camps.  Personally I would opt for a play over a musical 90% of the time, but musicals are a big part of London's theatre culture and hard to ignore regardless of your proclivity.  The one that every teenager is talking about at the moment, is Jamie.

Inspired by a real-life story of a teenage boy from County Durham, the musical has its roots in a BBC3  documentary called Jamie - Drag Queen at 16.

I first heard about the musical whilst listening to an interview between Jamie and his mother Margaret and Jenni Murray on Woman's Hour.  It was touching to hear how his mother, who had been on her own for much of his childhood, had not only stood by him but gone out of her way to encourage him to be true to himself.

When Jamie came out to his mother at the age of 14 he declared he was bisexual in a misguided attempt to make it easier for Margaret, however, she told him "not to be greedy...you are gay."  She is clearly not the type of woman to look at the world through rose-tinted spectacles.

The real Jamie's self-confidence was so evident in the interview and this was portrayed beautifully in the musical characterisation by actor John McCrea. From the outset he is presented as a young man sure of his own identity in a way which many teenagers are invariably not and this was clearly due in no small part to the unswerving love and support of his mother, who he describes not surprisingly as his rock.

Their  relationship lies at the centre of this musical and demonstrates wholeheartedly, the unconditional love of a parent for their child and the lengths they will go to in order to guarantee their happiness.  What parent can't relate to that?

At the heart of Jamie's story and therefore that of the musical is Jamie's ambition to be a drag queen and to wear a dress to his school prom.  As with any gritty British tale of conquering adversity there are, however, obstacles along the way to Jamie realising his dream, not least the battle to overcome prejudice around him.  There is after all, a world of difference between sporting peroxide hair and being flamboyant in your appearance and openly wearing a dress.

A teenage plot without prejudice at its core wouldn't be complete without that ever popular teenage theme of bullying.  This is present in two characters.  First there is the school thug who struggling with his own sense of identity seeks to provoke and intimidate Jamie at every opportunity.  There is, however, no real conflict between them as Jamie is so steadfast in his confidence that he easily overcomes the bully's verbal assaults with acerbic and humorous dialogue, of the kind that every parent worldwide hopes their own teenager will be able to summon up to defend themselves.

This approach is not, however, so successful with the second antagonist, Jamie's absent father, a man who clearly struggles with his son not being the kind of man he wants him to be.  Shielded from this throughout his life by his mother, Jamie is lost for words in the face of his aggressive assaults when he misguidedly turns up unexpectedly to thank him for the symbolic red birthday shoes that provide the basis for his first drag queen performance. This is the only time you see Jamie crumble and in real life there is no contact between the pair.

The other theme within the play that I loved was the value of female friendship.  Margaret's dear friend Ray is there for her every step of the way, listening, advising and acting as a mummy double to Jamie when he has his rare moments of doubt.  As a mother and a female, it's another thread that gives you that feel good factor, the kind that makes your toes curl and forces you to think who would be that person in your life.

Overall the musical is vibrant, energetic, witty and sassy and what John McCrea can do in those red stilettos puts many a heel obsessed woman to shame.  More importantly, however, in a world where it is no longer politically correct to make gay comments, Jamie is bang up to date with its nod to gender politics.  The unapologetic hilarity of its campness smacks you in the face and invites you to laugh out loud.  For me and maybe other parents in the auditorium it was reminiscent of the good time feel of a night at the infamous Madame Jojo's.  For the teenagers it enforced the need to stand up for themselves and offered a glimpse into another world where anything is possible. All in all if you have teenagers in the house it is an absolute must see.

 

I love to hear your views and comments.  Are you a fan of musicals? Have you seen Jamie? If not do you think you might?

 

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Fear Of Crime is Making Our Teenagers Unhappy

Fear Of Crime is Making Our Teenagers Unhappy

Growing up as a teenager in the 1980's in the idyllic English countryside I had very few worries and certainly none that kept me awake at night. Our teenagers today, however, are not so lucky.  Young people's happiness in the UK is at its lowest point for seven years according to The Children's Society, Good Childhood Report 2017.

What is making our teenagers unhappy? Families struggling to pay bills and lack of emotional support at home were among the pressures mentioned, but according to the report's findings, fear of crime is the biggest concern.  A total 2.2 million of those interviewed cited this as the thing that worries them the most.

One in three girls surveyed said they were concerned about being followed by a stranger and one in four boys were worried about being assaulted.

As a parent of both sexes and living in London, these figures and statements don't surprise me.  Stranger danger is omnipresent.  As for being assaulted, sadly there is rarely a week goes by without reports of an attack somewhere in our capital.

One of my worst fears during my parenting journey to date has been that I won't be able to protect my children from danger.  Now as they grow up and become increasingly more independent I fear they won't be able to protect themselves.  My teenagers have become  used to me frequently asking them to "be careful" every time they venture out.  There is, however, more to it than just being careful.

Being streetwise is a good skill to have and a prerequisite to keeping safe whether you live in London or any other major city.  Our teenagers need to know how to be observant and aware of their surroundings and not to put themselves at risk.

We have a duty of care to our teens to guide them on that, but of course it does not provide a cast iron guarantee of avoiding danger.  Despite everything my eldest has fallen victim to crime twice this year, but in both scenarios knew compliance was better than resistance and thankfully escaped shaken and not physically harmed - albeit poorer.

The report's findings reflect the trend illustrated by the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), which showed police recorded crime had risen by 13% in the 12 months to June.

Crime is of course nothing new, but what is disturbing nowadays is that it is so prevalent and so violent.  The use of weapons and now acid to cause serious injury is commonplace with no thought given to the consequences. In fact the ONS figures revealed a 20% rise in gun, knife and other serious violence.

News At Ten featured a series of reports earlier this month on violent crime which made for frightening viewing.  Aside from the staggering increase in the total number of offences committed, it was the frequency at which they occurred that struck me.

Every 14 minutes, there is a knife crime committed across England and Wales.  In London the number of incidents where shots are fired has doubled to two a day and one-in-six gun crime victims last year were aged 17 or under.

It is shocking and upsetting in equal measure that this is the cultural landscape our teens are growing up in.  Add to this the fact that as a result of living in fear of crime in their neighbourhood some teenagers are resorting to carrying weapons to protect themselves and thereby driving this increase, then the reality is even more horrific.

The teenage years are such an exciting time, it is a shame that for so many it is a period dominated by problems and fear with an inevitable long term impact upon their well-being.

What can be done to help? First and foremost these unhappy teenagers need support but if it is not available at home where do they turn?  For many the children's services provided by their local authority are a valuable resource, providing a much needed safety net not only in times of crisis but in a preventative scenario too.  As a rule those adolescents lacking the support of a stable emotional and financial family environment are the most vulnerable and arguably more susceptible to turning to crime themselves.

Youth centers give teenagers a place to meet and make friends, as well as a chance to take part in workshops, recreational activities and short courses. Youth workers operate outside of the centers, getting to know young people in schools, on the streets and in parks.  They also work alongside specialist teams responsible for youth crime prevention and issues connected to serious youth violence including gangs.

Unfortunately funding is being cut for these valuable local services that help our country's children.  This situation has various permutations and far-reaching consequences,all with potentially devastating results for the next generation.  As parents we owe it to all our country's teenagers to speak up on their behalf in a bid to help make life a little easier and our teenagers' world a safer and happier place.

How?  Well charity begins at home and in a week when the focus is very much on the needs of children, we can lend our support to the efforts of the Children's Society and sign their petition to ask for more funding to maintain local youth services.

It is not a time to turn the other cheek.  We can all make a difference to the society we live in.  Our teenagers today are tomorrow's adults and at the moment they need our help to reverse the decline in their well-being before it hits crisis point.

Disclosure: The Children's Society invited me to review their report.  No payment was received. All views and opinions are my own.

 

 

Editor's Note: The Children's Society is a national charity that runs local services and campaigns to change the law to help this country's most vulnerable children and young people.  The Good Childhood Report 2017 is the sixth in a series of annual reports about how children in the UK feel about their lives produced in collaboration with the University of York.  It is the most extensive national programme of research on children's subjective well-being in the world.

 

 

 

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What is Responsible Drinking for Parents?

What is Responsible Drinking for Parents?

What are your views on drinking alcohol in front of your children?  Do you make a conscious decision to abstain when with your children or just not to drink to excess?  Have you ever been drunk in front of your children?

In a new report released by the Institute of Alcohol Studies (IAS) 29% of parents admitted to having been drunk in front of their children, whilst 51% said they had been tipsy.  Out of the parents that admitted to having been tipsy, 29% of their children said they had been embarrassed by their parents' behaviour as a result and 19% said they felt they had been given less attention.

Invited to take part in a discussion on the findings of the report I was asked whether I drank in front of my teens.  My response quite simply was yes I do.  Asked my opinion on drinking in front of children I expressed the view that it was all about moderation.  Yet the English language is a fickle beast.  Moderate drinking can of course mean different things to different people, one person's glass of wine can be another's bottle.  So parents where should we draw the line?

The differentiating factor for me is responsibility.  We are bombarded by "responsible" marketing messages every where we look but the pinnacle of responsibility is surely responsible parenting.

As adults we know what it is to overstep the mark.  Thus, when it comes to alcohol, it is important as parents we exercise self-control when with our children.  This is at its height when they are younger.  Whilst that early parenting phase for me is well and truly over I was always conscious of the need for a sound mind at all times in case of an emergency.  In fact my husband and I have clocked up quite a few A&E trips with our children over the years and aside from being able to drive, a clear mind was very much a necessity on every occasion.

As they grow and move through the tween phase, our children become more perceptive and aware of boundaries of acceptable behaviour.  Add to this the benefits of education.  Tweens soak up information like sponges .  There is nothing more enjoyable than your child returning from school and brain dumping everything they have learnt in a series of "Did you know?" statements.  Included in this is the introduction to PSHE lessons and its important messages on social media, bullying, puberty, drugs and alcohol.  Tweens are suddenly armed with facts as well as an inquisitive mind.

In the report 11-12 year olds described alcohol as "like sugar for adults".  Well that must be bad then.  After all we spend our lives telling our children to cut back on sugar.  Fizzy drinks are banned, juices and smoothies with their abundance of natural fructose must be limited, along with biscuits and cakes and sweets are forbidden.

Well to be honest in my house all of these things are allowed in moderation.  Yes there is that word again.  But it is a word which for me encompasses the necessary sentiment.  It is about the avoidance of extremes.  My children know the difference between what is acceptable and what will send their dentist or me into a tail spin and them out of control.  Isn't it the same with us as adults when it comes to alcohol? By all means enjoy a glass of wine or a bottle of beer but just know when to stop when children are present.

Now as a mother of teens have my parameters changed?  Almost certainly.  That is not to say I lose control and dance on the table, but a lazy Sunday lunch with teens is one of midlife's pleasures and is more likely to end with a board game, a movie and an afternoon nap than a trip to A&E.

That said, it doesn't mean I have abandoned parenting responsibly.  Control is the defining point in all of this and is one that we emphasised to our eldest teen when he started on the teen house party circuit and more recently when he headed off to university to confront the first hurdle that is Freshers' Week and its inherent heavy drinking culture.

There is no right or wrong.  It all comes down to a matter of personal choice and everyone's choice will be different, even within families.  The only element to remember is that we are setting an example for our children at all times with food, exercise and alcohol.  Ultimately, however, our children will make their own decisions regardless of the example we have set, or what they have learnt and they will almost certainly make some mistakes along the way because that is life. . In the meantime, whilst flying the flag for responsible parenting, let's also remember life is for living - in moderation of course!

 

Did you see the report? What are your views on drinking in front of your children?  I look forward to hearing your views.

 

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How Do We Build Our Teenage Girls’ Self-Esteem?

How Do We Build Our Teenage Girls’ Self-Esteem?

Has your daughter ever called herself ugly?  If so how did you react?  Did you - like me - respond with a sharp intake of breath and a vehement "No you are not!"?

At the time of this shock announcement from my daughter I was in Paris on a girls trip, basking in the early evening sun, glass of wine in hand, overlooking the courtyard of the Louvre, after an afternoon touring the Dior Exhibition. My happiness boxes at the time were well and truly ticked.

The call started innocently enough with general chit chat about school, her mates, her test scores, hockey practice and then bam! Out of nowhere "Mum I'm so ugly.  It'not fair. Being a teenager really sucks!"

Only six months ago she had challenged the perception of pretty described by her classmates, dismissing it as no more than the stuff of barbie doll dreams and flying the flag for being an individual not a type; championing the value of personality over beauty.  Maybe as a result of this I had rested on my laurels too much, confident that she was well rounded and as such had missed some vital signs along the way.

My response was met with the retort "You are my mother, you have to say that!" As mothers we all want our children to be happy and that means shouldering their anxieties too when they come along.  I had spent 14 years trying to bring up a confident young lady, who I hoped would embark on this final stage of her journey to adulthood feeling good about herself.  Everyone praises her outward social confidence but if she felt like this inside had I failed?  UCL's recent Millenium Cohort Study revealed that a quarter of 14-year old girls are depressed.  Did this episode make my daughter one of them?

My maternal heart strings had been pulled and right then all I wanted was to see her beautiful face, her wide grin, give her a big hug and remove this "ugly" word from her list of personal adjectives.  But until I returned home, words were all I had at my disposal.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder

Ugly like hate is a strong word, reserved for extreme circumstances. There are those that argue if beauty is in the eye of the beholder then ugly must be too.  It is like a good bottle of wine, all a question of personal taste and what one person finds beautiful or ugly will be different to the next.

This is not, however, about defining what is ugly but rather pinpointing what we as mothers of teenage girls can do to boost their self-esteem.  A strong sense of self gives them the emotional scaffolding they need to handle these moments of self-doubt and criticism.  No-one had called my daughter ugly, just herself and even if it is just the once that is enough.

Beauty and appearance are thorny issues when raising girls.  Our girls are vulnerable.  All it takes is one throw away comment at the wrong time and their sense of self-worth can become quickly wrapped up in this  body image nightmare, which even if they don't come to it until later, is still an issue to be confronted, not trivialised or ignored.

Dove's Self-Esteem Project (DSEP) is committed to helping young girls as well as women have a healthy and positive relationship with the way they look.  Part of this is their Uniquely Me programme which gives parents heaps of practical advice and activities to help their daughters remove the emphasis on looks and focus on their inner "me" to boost their confidence.

So what can we do as parents?

  • Model a healthy self-image.  Therapist Michele Kambolis says “Our words and actions have a powerful impact on our children.”  If we as mothers adopt a self-critical approach we risk our daughters following suit.
  • Praise them not only about their looks but for their effort.  Saying “I really like the way you put your outfit together” instead of “You look gorgeous”, puts the focus on their effort being the most important element, not the end result.
  • Don't under-estimate the significance of fathers.  Daughters look to their fathers for assurance, guidance and approval.  In her book Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters Meg Meeker argues that a father has a valuable role to play in in guiding his daughter through a potentially toxic culture.  I was glad my daughter had her father whilst I was away, they have a strong bond and he was quick to intervene.
  • Congratulate them on all their achievements and don't forget to praise their imperfections as well. Remind them that life is not perfect all of the time and mistakes and disappointments provide valuable life lessons too.

Alison Bean, a fellow mother of teenagers, counsellor and psychotherapist had this advice when I asked her:

"As a mother the most important thing to remember is to communicate with our children. Encourage them to talk about how they feel, and why they feel ugly or dislike themselves. Don't dismiss their negative thoughts. This may be hard to hear at first, and all you want to do is cry out " you're beautiful to me inside and out" but their feelings are real to them and need to be acknowledged. As parents we need to make a conscious effort to balance our own compliments to them and try to direct our praise away from just their appearance and focus on the things they are good at; sports they play, art or creative work they excel in, musical instruments they play. Furthermore encourage them to spend more time with people they feel happy with, family members or close friends who don't constantly judge. This will help them to feel better about themselves, which in turn increases their self esteem and self worth."

In our family, we advocate a philosophy of sharing which I hope allows our teenagers to express their concerns, but more importantly gives us the opportunity to step in and provide support before an issue manifests itself into something bigger.  Our teenagers need to know that we are on their side as parents and nothing is more valuable than unconditional love for those moments when their confidence takes a knock.

 

I would love to hear from you if you have had a similar experience or have some thoughts to share on building self-esteem.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Guest Post – Top Shaving Tips For Teenage Boys

Guest Post – Top Shaving Tips For Teenage Boys

Watching my eldest get to grips with his personal grooming was interesting to say the least, particularly when it came to shaving - when to start, how often etc.  I have to admit to not being a great lover of facial hair so at the very first signs of the dreaded bum fluff I was keen for him to understand the importance of keeping on top of it but as a mother what on earth did I know about shaving? Well the truth is not a lot, but I knew it was something he had to learn to do properly from the outset and whether you are a fan of facial hair or not there is a world of difference between a good and bad shave.

Teaching your son to shave is generally considered to be a defining father-son moment on the path to preparing him for being a man.  But what about all those single mothers out there in need of some advice to pass on or who just want to know what their son should be doing?  Aron James is the editor of StubblePatrol and a father himself and here he shares his tips to help teenagers master the art of shaving, which I for one have found hugely valuable and have already thrust under the nose of my teenager to improve his technique!

ARON JAMES 

THE IMPORTANCE OF SHAVING

Like most teenage boys, my son's facial hair was relatively unnoticeable initially, but once he started high school he had to up his game considerably and shave more frequently, otherwise he would just look very unkempt.   He had to learn fast and although he made some mistakes as we all do when we start out, I gave him some pointers to put him on the right path. After all a young man wants to go into the world with style and be confident of how to look after himself, so here are my steps to help teenagers complete their look with a great shave.

THE ESSENTIALS OF A GREAT SHAVE

The essentials are a quality shaving cream that lathers and doesn’t foam; tea tree oil for its anti-microbial properties; a shaving brush that is not too hard or soft; a good quality razor; facial wash with tea tree oil and a clean towel.

TOP 3 TIPS FOR ACHIEVING THE BEST SHAVE  

1. The first thing to do is to wash the face with warm water to ensure the skin is moist. It is easy particularly in the early days to be too eager to just start and ignore this step but keeping the skin moist is the best way to ensure a close shave as it is widely reported that this reduces wear and tear on the skin that may cause inflammation afterwards.

2. He should apply the shaving cream on his face with his hands, then use the brush to lather it around in a circular fashion, ending with strokes in a direction opposite to the hair growth. This is really important because the cream not only provides a smooth surface for the blades to glide over the skin but it keeps the hair raised after stroking which helps to achieve a closer shave.

Thereafter he should use a razor and stroke gently in the direction of the hair growth, ensuring he uses nice even strokes until all the cream is gone.  If needs be, he can re-apply shaving cream once more and repeat the previous procedure to get an even closer and more even shave.

3. Rinse with warm water over the sensitive areas and use a facial wash high in tea tree oil to help kill inflammation-causing microbes after shaving. Rinse with cool water then pat dry with a clean towel and finish by applying regular tea tree oil to the skin to keep inflammation and possible ingrown hair from forming.

 

OTHER THINGS TO CONSIDER

These three top tips alone should be enough. However, if your son is anything like ours in the early days (a little arrogant) then he may not follow these tips exactly and end up suffering from a whole host of dermatological issues, so here are some other things for him to consider.

  • Do not rush a shave. That is because the more you rush the more likely it is that you will get nicks and cuts as you are applying more pressure.
  • Shaving against hair growth will lead to a closer shave but it may result in getting cut more as well as having ingrown hairs (my son learnt the hard way).
  • Instead of trying to get everything done all at once to safe time, you should shave twice so as not to damage the skin too much by trying to get the closest shave in one go.  This is particularly true if you do not want scrapes, cuts and in-grown hair.
  • Ensure that the shaving cream used is specifically for sensitive skin since teenager's facial skin is sensitive in the early years of shaving.

FINAL WORDS

Following the tips above teenage boys should be well set for following a path to shaving properly from the outset.  Once my son understood this he was able to get clean and consistent shaves without cuts, scrapping and in-grown hair. These tips kept him out of the dermatologist’s office and caused him to shave more; improving his looks and his self-esteem. Take it from me as a parent of a teenage son he will thank you for giving him this expert advice, if not immediately then definitely in the long run!

Author Bio:

Aron James is the founder of StubblePatrol.com a site on male grooming offering best practice advice on a wide range of grooming topics.

 

Editor's Note : This is not a sponsored post.  

 

 

 

 

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The Mother & Teenager C25K Challenge

The Mother & Teenager C25K Challenge

One thing I never thought I would be taking up again at 50 is running!  I did all that and got the t-shirt way back in my 20's and 30's. Keeping fit and healthy is of course a priority, but over the last decade it has been of a more conservative nature than returning to pounding the streets and parks of South London.  So what happened?

Well with a a staycation planned for our summer and lazy days stretching ahead with just the youngest teen for company, it struck me that we could both benefit from something to focus on and as I wrote only a short while ago having a shared interest with your child or teens is so valuable.  It gives us a common purpose, keeps us talking and keeps our relationship alive and as any parent with teenagers will realise that is not a bad thing.

There are some seriously accomplished running mumbloggers out there, Sarah at Mum of Three World for one and some like the fabulous Prabs at Absolutely Prabulous who like me is pushing back against midlife in style.  There have also been many wonderful and inspirational pieces written by other bloggers about their own Couch to 5K (C25K) journey including Charlie over at Mess & Merlot, who not content with reaching the 5K milestone, pushed herself onto 10K.  Aspirational indeed but for now we like all newcomers are just focusing on the first steps to 5K.

The C25K programme is not new, it has actually been around since 1996 and ironically was actually devised by a young man called Josh Clark with his 50 year old mother in mind, to encourage her to address her health.

When I hit 50 earlier this year I reviewed my midlife exercise regime with its focus heavily towards Pilates and Barre work outs and booked sessions with personal trainer Clare at Live In Fitness Retreat.  A 56 year old whose mantra is that "50 doesn't define us anymore", Clare took me outside of my comfort zone and introduced me to HIIT, a way of exercising that can be done in just 12 minutes a day.  It was a real eye opener for me in terms of my cardio-vascular health, I managed the sessions and still do some at home, but it was evident that it was something I had neglected in recent years.

Following in the footsteps of Josh Clark's mother and all the other 50 year olds like her I hope that apart from binding me in a shared agony with my daughter, running again will address that area of weakness for me.  But this experience is not just about me, the other half of the "us" is my daughter who is keen to return to school in September fit and ready for the hockey season ahead, with its gruelling training schedule of early mornings and late afternoons.  For her it is all about improving her stamina and of course hanging out with me!

So how has it been so far?  Well we are almost at the end of the third week of the nine week programme and I think I can safely say we both feel quite smug.  Firstly, because we have proved to the doubting boys in the house that the girls in the house can do "sweaty, heart pumping" exercise if we put our minds to it and secondly because quite frankly not every day has been easy!

There have been days when we have been too hot, too cold or soaked to the skin by archetypal English downpours.  Some mornings we have just been dog tired.  We have also been embarrassed as we pass people we know with the dulcet tones of Michael Jordan booming from our phones encouraging us to start, to stop, to run, to walk but most importantly to keep a steady pace and just keep going.

This aside, however, we have enjoyed the warm up walk and the chance to chat about "stuff"; the way we feel at the end of each session; the fact we keep on doing it not because we have to but because we want to and that as each run passes we have ticked another box, plus we are getting close to noticing a real difference.  Of course we have exchanged a few cross words along the way but we don't pant now, we breathe and not just in time with our own footsteps but with each other. We are in sync on our runs, supporting and coaxing each other along the way.

Josh Clark said that he wanted the programme to be easy and rewarding, recognising that we are creatures of inertia and need carrots to get moving and to continue.  In that regard, it is working for us thus far.  As beginners the schedule is sustainable.  I don't know how far we will go with it and whether once we reach the end and tick off our first 5K we will then join the masses running several times a week.  I do, however, hope that we will both reap the rewards of improved fitness and at the very least we will get together once a week for some more "us" time.  Watch this space!

 

Have you embarked on the C25K challenge or something like it?  If so I would love to hear how you coped.

 

 

 

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The Value Of A Shared Interest Between Parent & Child

The Value Of A Shared Interest Between Parent & Child

What makes you tick?  Do you share any passions with your children? One of the many things I love about being a mother of teenagers is discovering shared interests that help to cement our relationship as adults and as a family.

As parents we are all guilty of enrolling our children from an early age in a multitude of clubs under the guise that it will be "good for them", whilst waiting quietly in the wings to see which ones stick and if we have a child prodigy on our hands - oh if only!

Those early day activities do have a role to play but the real moment of discovery comes with the secondary parenting stage when our children cast off the shackles of stage one parenting and start to own and nurture their own interests in a grab for independence of mind and spirit.   It is a moment of childhood metamorphosis.

It is wonderful to see them hit on something that ignites a spark and for which they truly develop not just a liking but a passion.  It is even better, however, if that something also interests you and will therefore connect you as individuals with a shared interest, rather than simply as a parent and child.

Of course with a boy and a girl in the house it is natural to assume the father will do all the boy stuff and the mother all the girl stuff, but that is an outdated viewpoint and certainly not the case in our house. I would be lying, however, if I said my eldest teenager's passions for rugby and cricket ignite a spark in me, but nevertheless I am genuinely interested in what it means to him.  So over the years that has meant standing in the back garden and helping out whilst he practises his passing (rugby) or bowling (cricket), turning up to support him when he is playing, trying to understand the rules and taking an interest in the detailed match analysis that always follows every game. Sport excites him and is a big part of him I cannot ignore if I am to understand and connect with him, although sports trivia and inside sporting jokes are clearly the preserve of my husband as are trips to watch live games or to play a round of golf.

Sport aside, on a more frivolous level  we also love shopping together (yah!) a male in the house that loves to look good after a wasted decade spent trying to persuade my husband that clothes maketh the man and are not just a necessity for covering nudity, is a relief I cannot quite describe.   My son has helped me to decide on many an outfit over the years and was my chosen shopping companion when buying my all important shoes for my 50th this year.  My husband would say it is a shallow shared interest of course but I beg to differ.

 

Sadly my eldest does not share my passion for reading, the theatre or art.   Over the years we have forced books upon both our teens but with our eldest it has been clear since primary that reading would always be a means to an end for him and not a pleasure.  A Freddie Flintoff biography remains to this day his favourite read of all time - as an English graduate I have despaired!  Similarly, with the theatre whilst we have enjoyed many a family excursion to national and local theatre, aside from a pantomine featuring the dance group Diversity after their success on Britain's Got Talent, it really hasn't flicked his switch but it doesn't mean we have given up - it is just a case of finding a compromise sometimes and we have had a few wins amidst the fails War Horse, Le Cirque du Soleil to name a few.

These passions of mine are all the reserve of my shared interests with my youngest teen who devours books by the truckload, adores drama from the perspective of a spectator, performer and director and is very happy to wile away several hours with me at the RA , the Tate or our local art galleries and has even started her own mini art collection as a result.

Similarly with my daughter, however, despite our female connection she shares a fistful of interests with her father I can't get close to.  Sci-Fi for one, YouTubers with extraordinary names, the Marvel Universe and Gaming and as she reminded me only this morning, it was as a result of my husband spending hours at a time making up stories with her toys and shooting videos that ignited her love of filming.

It is impossible for everyone in a family to like all of the same things but to survive the next phase of parenting and beyond it is essential to have some areas of common ground.  It is our areas of shared interest that give not only our family our identity but the relationships within it too.  If I think about my relationship with my parents now in their 70's, my mother's absolute love is gardening and it is through her that I have developed my own interest.  Growing up in Norfolk, outdoor coastal walks were a regular occurence and gave us the chance to come together as a family and this is something I still enjoy not only with my parents when I visit, but also in London with my own family, even if the views don't involve the sea.

As a family we have clocked up some fabulous experiences together including our Super Saturday experience at the 2012 Olympics and an array of moments from travelling and exploring different countries and cultures, something again that my own parents engendered in me during my childhood.   Comedy is also a shared passion and we all relish a night being entertained either from the comfort of our sofa or live at comedy clubs or the big venues with the likes of Michael McIntrye and Jack Whitehall - a new introduction for me by my teens in fact.

The truth is, however, it doesn't even need to be complicated, some of our best moments together have been enjoying a wet and windy walk around the common or sitting around a table playing a card or board game (Scrabble brings out the worst in all of us) and binge watching on Eastenders or Come Dine With Me whilst waiting for my own culinary masterpiece to materialise (think Wendy of Butterflies fame - if you are old enough of course!)

Parenting teenagers is a distinctive journey and the value of shared interests is nowhere more apparent than at this stage - they will provide a multitude of unforgettable experiences and are ultimately the glue that will bind you together for the stage beyond.

 

What interests do you share with your children and as a family?  I would love to hear from you in the comments below.

 

 

 

 

 

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Sleepy Teenagers – How Much Do They Need?

Sleepy Teenagers – How Much Do They Need?

With the exams finally behind us and the holidays stretching ahead it has struck me that one thing teenagers can do very well is sleep.

In our house there is a definite teen sleep pattern evolving that eschews that of the rest of the house and means not only are our body clocks not in tune but also we are out of sync on so many other levels as a result.

If he is not working to pay for his multiple upcoming summer holidays, our eldest will go out as we go to bed, arrive home as my husband goes to work, go to sleep as I get up and his breakfast is our lunch and so on and so forth.   As for our youngest, well she is going through a massive growth spurt at the moment and is permanently tired so needs no encouragement to sleep some more.

I am certainly not a morning person and relish the holidays and the chance for some extra shut eye, but my teenagers make sleeping look like an Olympic sport when not at school and I confess that on a couple of occasions I have resorted to the habit namely reserved for new mums of creeping in to their rooms and checking for a pulse for fear they have slipped in to a sleep induced coma!

Of course this whole scenario is ironic as I am sure like many other parents of teenagers will attest, the term time is a constant battle to get them to go to bed and get enough sleep, so if I argue with them now about cutting their sleep short and getting up earlier, they simply raise their eyebrows and challenge my logic.

Research from the National Sleep Foundation shows that teenagers between the ages of 14-18 need around 9 hours sleep a night, not only for their general well being but also to function at their best.

As adults, we are all too aware of the benefits of sleep.  It makes us more alert and we have more energy, we think more clearly and make better decisions and that of course means we are all much happier and enjoy life more, but just as with everything else in life though, it isn't just about the quantity of sleep but the quality.

Puberty, has a lot to answer for and as our children move through adolescence their internal body clock starts to alter which in turn affects their circadian rhythm making them more alert later in the day and moving back their time for feeling sleepy at night by about two hours, so it is a futile battle to get them to go to bed early as their body is simply not sleepy enough.

Combine this with busy schedules during the term time and the need to wake up early and go to school and invariably our teenagers are just not getting the amount, let alone the quality of sleep they need.

Cumulative sleep deprivation is bad for our health and as I know from personal experience with my menopausal insomnia, can result in mood swings, concentration issues and poor health and the same is true of teenagers.  They need sleep to ensure their brain grows properly and to make sense of the world.

I have featured a guest post previously from Dr Martin Lee at No Phone Zone on good sleep hygiene habits for our teenagers and the importance of ensuring they disconnect from the digital world when they go to bed, but what else can we do as parents?

Well during term time a routine and set bed time is important, but it would seem that during the weekends and holidays whilst it may go against every grain in our body and drive us nuts, it is advised to let our teenagers sleep to replenish their fuel reserves, but this should not be at the expense of any parental control.  If left to sleep indefinitely teenagers will experience a complete shift in their circadian rhythm which will mean that when it comes to the end of the holidays and returning to a normal routine they will struggle to adapt.

A good night's rest is vital mental nourishment and the holidays are a time for resting and throwing the rule book and the alarm clock for that matter out of the window but there is a point at which it is necessary to call "time teenagers please!"

 

What is your summer holiday sleep routine? Are your youngsters busy catching up on their sleep?

 

 

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