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Parents Urged To Find Time for Teens over Christmas

12 December 2013

Parents Urged To Find Time for Teens

TOUGHLOVE issues checklist for Christmas and its lead-up

TOUGHLOVE is calling on parents to use the upcoming holiday period to reconnect with their teenage children.

The parent support organisation also advises mums and dads to prioritise time with their teens during the busy and often stressful weeks leading up to Christmas, despite the many other calls on their schedules.

In addition, TOUGHLOVE has issued a fifteen point checklist, aimed at helping parents of teenagers cope with both the holiday season and the weeks leading up to it. The checklist can be viewed at

"We've put our checklist together because this time of year has characteristic stresses which can precipitate unacceptable teenage behaviour and family dysfunction," says TOUGHLOVE Auckland spokesperson and Parent Support Group Facilitator, Peter Altmann.

"Most of us find there's barely enough time to do all that we need to do before Christmas. As we rush to take advantage of every available minute, we may well stop communicating with family members, even though they're living under the same roof as us. This can have serious consequences for parent-child relationships.

"We also tend to have expectations of enjoying ourselves in the midst of our families on Christmas Day. But, all too often, our time together can be the occasion when simmering resentments boil over.

"However, both the holiday period and its lead-up can, if handled intelligently, provide an opportunity for rebuilding frayed relationships, helping teenagers back onto positive paths and avoiding parental and family meltdown in the year ahead," he says.

Amongst other recommendations, the checklist suggests that parents encourage teens to look for holiday jobs or, if they're not going back to school, to draft a CV.

The list also includes ways to encourage teens to assist around the house. And it recommends asking them to help organise the family's Christmas celebrations and/or prepare part of the Christmas dinner. A key focus is on providing teens with positive reinforcement for good behaviour by praising their efforts around the house rather than nitpicking.

The checklist stresses, however, that parents have the right to expect their teenagers to be at home on Christmas Day if that is their family's custom.

A further recommendation is that parents discuss holiday plans with their teens well in advance of Christmas.

"It's obviously important to find out what your teenager wants to do over the holiday period and, if possible, accommodate this in your plans. But you might discover your teen has a hitherto undisclosed scheme to attend a beach party in a totally different part of the country to where you intend being," says Peter Altmann.

"In these circumstances, instead of getting angry and sparking confrontation, you might prefer to enquire about the details of your teenager's plans and point out the pitfalls. The allure of the beach party might then suddenly evaporate. But, obviously, the sooner you get wind of it, the better," he adds.

Meanwhile, the checklist warns parents against seeking to buy good behaviour with expensive Christmas presents. And it states that, if a teen is behaving unacceptably, parents might consider reducing the size of his or her present. If they adopt this approach, parents should be prepared to explain why.

The checklist also cautions parents against thinking they can switch-off totally from their responsibilities whilst away on holiday. Instead of collapsing into a deckchair, it recommends that they explore new activities with their teenagers, teaching them new skills and developing new dimensions to their relationship with their children.

And a final recommendation is that parents get in touch with TOUGHLOVE (on 0800 868 445), if they find themselves at the end of their tether as a result of unacceptable teen behaviour over the holiday period, or at any other time.

TOUGHLOVE has been running weekly Parent Support Groups across New Zealand since the 1980s, offering a sympathetic forum for tens of thousands of demoralised parents, along with the opportunity to learn and share proven and effective strategies for dealing with unacceptable teenage behaviour.

Such behaviour can range from failure to do homework or refusal to help around the house to the abuse of other family members, drug or alcohol usage, staying out all night or taking the family car on joyrides. And, sometimes, a parent might be living in fear of a potentially violent son or daughter, who might also be a threat to younger siblings.

"Typically, those attending our support groups are sensible and conscientious people, who've been dragged down by situations they'd have thought completely manageable, until it happened to them and their child. Shame, grief, embarrassment and zero self-esteem are the norm.

"Our group facilitators aren't professionals but they've all been through similar experiences and come out the other side with restored confidence and enhanced insight.

"There's a widespread misconception that TOUGHLOVE stands for a harsh and punitive approach to dealing with out-of-control teens. That's simply not our position. Instead, we stress that teenagers need a clear sense of structure, boundaries and consequences. Our name reflects the realisation that parenting is a tough job and that love is an essential part of it," says Peter Altmann.

A survey conducted last year found that 91 percent of parents attending TOUGHLOVE groups would recommend the experience to other parents.

Peter Altmann and his wife Sandra Altmann are both long-serving TOUGHLOVE volunteers. Last week, the Remuera couple received a Kiwibank Local Heroes medal, as part of the 2014 New Zealander of the Year Awards.

Information concerning TOUGHLOVE is available at or by telephoning the freephone number: 0800 868 445.


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