Monday, July 02, 2012

The Parenting Teenagers Course Week 4: Developing Emotional Health

Week 4 of Alpha's "Parenting Teenagers Course" was as interesting and relevant as the first three weeks - this week looking at the area of "emotional health". Within this there was a very strong emphasis on the uses and abuses of that most powerful emotion; anger.

The DVD began with outlining some of the reasons that households with teenagers are often the scenes for considerable anger. Doing a course like this with other parents is great, because we sometimes have a very angry house - in which emotions can run high, voices rise and sometimes doors slam. While the people on the DVD assure us that this not unusual, its a very reassuring feeling to know from others in the room that we really are not alone in this! The section on "understanding anger" was therefore useful for us - not because it was new information (it was actually quite familiar from the Marriage Course), but as a timely reminder that anger itself is not wrong - but it is something  which can be handled well or badly. Helpfully the DVD points out that learning to handle anger constructively  might take a child 18years, and that modelling patience while they learnt this skill is more helpful for them than responding to their anger with anger.

The Marriage Course contains a useful section on anger in which spouses look at whether they tend towards "Rhino" or "Hedgehog" behaviour, that is to say exploding into anger, or burying anger and avoiding necessary conflict. The same typology is applied here, with the aim of helping firstly parents and then teenagers to be able to address conflict in constructive ways. Critically, (and relevantly for us) this is based on the understanding that our children will learn emotional skills from what they observe from us primarily, and so we need to apply these things to ourselves first, if we are to create the calm, safe and accepting environment they need. They suggest the following principles, (i) don't over-react, take time to calm down in the face of provocation, (ii) don't say hurtful things when angry, don't negatively label teens when addressing poor behaviour (iii) don't withdraw and be afraid of conflict, somethings do need to be said, and issues confronted. I was impressed with the experts who were interviewed on the DVD's who all stressed that as teens develop their own ideas and opinions they should be listened to, but that does not mean they can speak however they want to their parents. The aim must be to create an environment in which they are able to express what they want - but within some basic rules of politeness and respect. Easier said than done - but it does establish a sensible framework for us to strive towards.

The principles for resolving conflict at the end of the evening were again familiar to us as they are not radically different to the Marriage Course ideas which we know so well. What has been challenging has been the change from our kids been small and having to basically passively receive instruction, to a more negotiated pattern as they become teens with their own opinions. This is an ongoing and not always easy process which will continue for a few years yet!

My main learning points from this are to model the controlled and positive use of anger, especially in from of them, as well as to be much more willing to listen to what makes them angry, rather than just rushing on to the next item on life's frantic agenda.

1 comment:

Parental Control Software said...

Emotional health is just as important as physical health. Kids emotions are somewhat diverse. Parents should look at it closely.