DEAR FIONA: My teenage children are rebelling against me
Columnist and trained counsellor Fiona Caine offers her perspective on family dramas, emotional issues and dysfunctional relationships. This week: tackling teenagers, re-registering births and how to become a childminder.
QUESTION: 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 their GCSEs and A-levels respectively.
They virtually ignore everything I say to them, especially if it’s a request to tidy a room. 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 and leave 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: 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 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, because 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.
QUESTION: When I got married recently I was surprised when the registrar told us that we needed to re-register the births of our children.
However, my husband says we don’t need to bother because he is already listed on the original birth certificate as being their father.
Since the wedding, I have become increasingly worried we might be breaking the law, but he is adamant we don’t need to bother. Is he right?
FIONA SAYS: No, I’m afraid he’s not. Even though he is listed as the natural father, I’m afraid you do need to re-register the births of the children.
It seems confusing, but it arises from a quirk in the laws governing legitimacy. The Legitimacy Act 1976 introduced a requirement to register to ensure the legitimacy of children for inheritance purposes.
Subsequent laws have been introduced which mean that a child now only needs to prove the deceased was their parent to be entitled, but the problem is the Legitimacy Act 1976 still exists.
I agree, it does seem an unnecessary step, but it is required by law.
The good news is it’s free to re-register and you can get further guidance as well as the necessary form via the UK Government website.
Go to gov.uk and search ‘re-register a child’s birth following marriage of natural parents’ and you’ll find a link to form LA1 where all will be made clear.
In Scotland, go to the National Record of Scotland’s site and use the same search criteria to link to form RR1.
QUESTION: I am 16 and my boyfriend is 18 and we had sex for the first time last week. Although I enjoyed it, I don’t want to do it again as it just doesn’t feel right, at least not yet.
I can’t explain it, I just don’t feel ready, but I’m also worried about how he’ll react. What if he wants sex every time we get together?
I like him a lot and don’t want to lose him, but I am not sure I could cope if he gets angry with me. What should I do?
FIONA SAYS: Please try not to get stressed out by this, but talk with your boyfriend and tell him that, although you can’t quite explain it, you simply don’t feel ready yet for an ongoing sexual relationship.
Explain that, at least for now, you’d like things to go back to the way they were. If he genuinely cares for you, he should be able to accept this.
If he puts pressure on you to have sex again or he gets angry, perhaps you should consider whether he’s right for you.
Anyone who could resort to these tactics in the face of a distressed partner really doesn’t deserve you.
QUESTION: 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.
Before you begin this process though, I suggest you’d find it helpful to learn exactly what’s involved in being a childminder.
A good place to start is the Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years, or PACEY. This membership-based charity has a wealth of information about responsibilities, how to register, costs and possible training.
Membership is not essential, especially at this early stage, but you might like to consider it later if you decide to go ahead. Good luck and I hope you make a success of it.
Write to Fiona Caine c/o Elise Brewerton, 1000 Lakeside, North Harbour, Portsmouth PO6 3EN or [email protected]. Fiona regrets that she cannot enter into personal correspondence, nor pass letters on to other readers.