Ask Fiona: Baffled, stressed, hurt, worried? It's all just part of parenting teenagers
Columnist and trained counsellor Fiona Caine offers her perspective on family dramas, emotional issues and dysfunctional relationships. This week: living with teenagers, and how to become a childminder
PLEASE help, I feel that I have alienated my teenage children. My eldest is away at university and my younger two are at school doing GCSEs and A-levels. They virtually ignore everything I say to them, especially if it's a request to tidy a room.
And if I do get a response, it's usually sarcasm or anger – unless they want feeding or their sports kit washed.
They constantly graze through everything in the fridge, leaving the kitchen in a mess, and even when I can get them to eat with us, their noses are buried in smart phones.
They no longer want to spend any time with us, preferring to be out with friends or stuck on a computer in their room.
It feels as though they don't love me anymore and I hate it. I feel more like an unpaid skivvy than a mother. What have I done wrong?
FIONA SAYS: Teenagers can be tricky. As baffling, stressful, hurtful and worrying as all this must seem, I'm afraid it's simply par for the course when living with teenagers. It doesn't mean that they don't love you. Indeed, there is usually nothing more sinister going on than the natural process of young people becoming adults.
From their perspective, it is often a confusing and difficult time. They are experiencing major body changes and surges of hormones. They can often struggle to develop their own identity in the face of peer pressure and the need to develop a sense of their own independence.
Throw relationships into this mix and it's no wonder they can often become moody and aloof, preferring the company of friends. Nor is it surprising that they feel misunderstood and reject attempts by parents to talk or show affection. It's not personal, but it hurts and I do know; I've had two teenage sons!
It's not easy getting through to them but, with a bit of patience and guidance, it should be possible to set some boundaries and get them to engage a little more in family life.
This might include setting aside mobile phones at meal times, making them responsible for their own clothes washing or perhaps getting them to cook an occasional meal. One of the more successful tactics I used was teaching my sons to cook – they couldn't help but talk to me then!
The charity Family Lives (familylives.org.uk) has a very useful section on how best to communicate with teenagers and details some tactics you could employ. It also has a confidential helpline, as well as online forums and parenting courses for those times when tactics don't quite go to plan.
Finally, please don't think you have somehow failed; you haven't. You've brought up three children who seem to be active, strong and independent. If you can give them the freedom to grow a little away from you now, they are more likely to be willing to come back to you when they are older.
How do I become a childminder?
I LOST my job last month and, although the money will be missed, I am happy to be spending more time with my two young children again. My mother has suggested that I set myself up as a childminder, and the more I think about this, the more I like the idea.
I could continue to stay with my children and make a living as well. I am sure I need to register in some way, but have no idea where to start.
Can you help?
FIONA SAYS: You will indeed need to register and the agency you approach for this will depend on where you are in the UK and the age of the children you intend to look after. In Northern Ireland you must, by law, be registered with the Health and Social Care Trust in your area.
Before you begin this process though, I suggest you'd find it helpful to learn exactly what's involved in being a childminder. The Northern Ireland Childminding Association is the place to go in the first instance; see their website nicma.org where you'll find comprehensive information on what's required as well as contact details for the Childminding Development Officer in your area.
Good luck and I hope you make a success of it.
If you have a problem you'd like Fiona's advice with, email email@example.com