Tips for Surviving the Teen Years by Janey Downshire & Naella Grew


It’s a pleasure to share counsellors Janey Downshire and Naella Grew’s top tips to surviving their teen years.

…The 2nd edition of Teenagers Translated is out now.  Since we started our business in 2009 we have delivered our parent programmes to thousands of parents in the UK and overseas.  What we have noticed since our 1st book in 2014, is an alarming increase in the number and severity of issues which parents raise with us (panic attacks, depression, unregulated anxiety, ADHD, chronic fatigue, stress, self-harming behaviours, eating disorders, substance or technology addiction/bingeing, suicidal thoughts).  And these issues are no longer confined to the teenage years; children younger than 10 or older than mid 20s are likely to be suffering.  We are both parents of this age group, and we conduct workshops with students, so we understand the challenges that parents and young people are facing.  We know that many parents are craving information and the tools with which to fully engage with this vulnerable period of child development and their aim is to avoid or prevent mental health decline.

Teenagers Translated is A Survival Guide for Parents  has relevant facts and resources (extracted from recent research evidence by experts across a number of disciplines) presented in a user-friendly, accessible and non-preachy way.  It is full of practical strategies to help parents hone their approach to a wide range of issues and improve family relationships and communication.

A number of interconnecting themes run through the book:  the changing adolescent brain, good mental health versus a wide range of mental health issues, the teenage emotional rollercoaster, how to regulate stress/anxiety, de-coding trademark teenage behaviours, creating a secure family base (values and boundaries), appreciating gender differences, understanding relationships/sex ed, keeping the family unit communicating and talking, managing and understanding technology use…..

There is more to choose from, making it difficult to single out the most important, but we have chosen our Top 3 for Honest Mum readers:


Understand the changing brain

The stats for adolescent mental health make depressing reading, so understanding the basic structure of the brain is a good way for parents to get their heads around mental health.  The brain undergoes a massive overhaul from around age 10 to the mid 20s and during this time it is adapting and moulding itself to whatever it experiences.  If our DNA, ‘loads the gun, but lifestyle pulls the trigger’ (Barbara ONeill) it is helpful for parents to really know what will have a positive influence on this developing brain and steer things in the right direction.

One thing we can have control over is how we interact and communicate with our child.  Our Attachment relationship has a powerful and psychological influence on our child’s future mental health, wellbeing and behaviour.   We find it useful to think of our child’s behaviour emanating from this brain-in-the-making.  If we imagine that different sets of behaviours are like muscles, the more exercise they get during the brain’s neuroplasticity stage, the stronger they become, and parents can have a vital and powerful influence by not over exercising a child’s ability for arguing, escalation, tension, confrontation, anger, anxiety or worrying as these all become mental habits for the future.


Learn the art of self-regulation

If our brain is the engine that drives human behaviour and a working mind, our emotions or more specifically our biochemistry is the fuel in the tank.  Our brain’s stress response system (the Amygdala) is primarily focused on survival.  If something in our interpersonal world appears to be a threat (being left out, feeling criticised, failing, shame) then the mind/body will produce stress chemicals (adrenaline, cortisol) to help cope and survive.  Anxiety, or heightened levels of cortisol, and a hyper-aroused stress response and nervous system is the principal cause underlying many of today’s dysfunctional mental health issues (see list above).   Parents play a vital role in immunizing their child against this epidemic, and instead promoting emotional resilience.  You can do this by being aware of HOW you react in crisis because the adolescent brain will mirror a parent’s calm, logical, measured responses.  In effect we can act as role models for a wide range of social, emotional, moral and behavioural issues.  It’s less about what we say, but more about how we say or do it.


Don’t shy away from sex and relationship discussions

The impact of technology, specifically online pornography, is having a detrimental effect on young adults (loneliness, addiction, confusion, fear, sexual dysfunction to name a few).  One of the fundamental purposes of adolescence is to separate psychologically from parents or dependent caregivers and become an independent adult, able to form strong social bonds and intimate relationships with others.  The ability to have satisfactory mutual relationships is established slowly as a result of face-to-face communicating, branching out, building trust and establishing lasting connections.  Pornography short-circuits this, providing an instant gratification relationship to technology without the need for consent, commitment or social engagement with a partner.   The human brain is social and it thrives on connection and the brain’s sexual template gives humans the capacity to love and to be loved, fulfilling a deep innate need. With open discussion and education parents can use their relationship with their teenager to provide them with an effective blueprint relationship whichwill help them in the future.

Maintaining a positive, parent-y influence whilst they grow up is one of the greatest gifts we can give our children.  The parent/child relationship remains throughout our lives, but the dynamic of this relationship has to change during adolescence.  Hard as it is to hold back, if we don’t want snowflake children who melt when the heat is on, we have to stop rescuing them, sorting things out which they are capable of doing for themselves or helicoptering in at the sniff of failure.  What our children need is a non-judgmental go-to place to discuss their concerns so they can find their own pathway.

Teenagers Translated is founded and run by Janey Downshire (Grad. Dip. Couns; Cert Emotional Literacy; MBACP) and Naella Grew (BA; MA; Grad. Dip. Couns; MBACP).

Both trained counselors with over 10 yrs of experience promoting positive teenage mental health and emotional wellbeing for parents, school staff and students. For further information, please visit www.teenagerstranslated.co.uk or email Janey@teenagerstranslated.co.uk.  Books for sale at Talks or available from Amazon and Waterstones


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