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Did you know your Teenager's destructive behaviour is a coping mechanism?
Do you want to find a long term solution for your Teenager's struggle?

Whether it be an eating disorder, self-harm, anxiety, panic attacks, depression, addiction, rebellion, anger, crime or substance abuse - it is hard to watch a child change into a person you no longer recognise. Often their behaviour triggers insecurity in us - the parent - as well as fear, overwhelm, and guilt at having 'failed'.

But the truth is you haven't failed. Your teenager is transitioning from childhood to adulthood. Accordingly, they need to adapt their behaviour and coping mechanisms to help them through a period of experimentation, pushing boundaries and testing relationships. And you need to remember - just like the weaning stage, the potty training stage, the feeding themselves stage - IT IS JUST A STAGE!

What they are also discovering during this critical time is that their world - which once appeared safe, secure and stable - is no longer that. Gone are the days when they were protected from harm by having a parent pick them up, set them on their knee and make things better.

For the first time, they have to face adversity, conflict, struggle, pain and suffering.

And they do so by developing COPING MECHANISMS.

Coping mechanisms are strategies we develop to minimise, mask or hide the pain (from the past), isolation (in the present) and fear (from the future) from some of the following: Discrimination and isolation from friends. Not fitting into the right social group. The competition around academic results and social media comparison. The pressure to perform, study, socially engage, choose a career, find a job, please parents, fit in at home and find a sense of belonging in a community or tribe. In addition, most teens require coping mechanisms to deal with trauma from adverse childhood experiences (ACE's)

When teenagers cannot make head or tail of their EXTERNAL environment and feel unsafe, their feelings and emotions flit all over the place, and their INNER world converts to chaos. Their coping mechanisms then serve to do one, or all, of three things: Numb the pain, release the pain, or help survive the pain.

In the same way that we need coping mechanisms to get through life's tough challenges - so do they!

My business partner Jo is an extraordinary athlete. She is one of those annoying people who can run 100k and do those long marathons with the word ultra in them! (I have to say the word ultra scares me - but then so does her level of fitness!). We know fitness is good for our Mental Health - but I cannot exercise to that level, and nor can many of us. We can, however, exercise to a lesser degree and, in doing so, adopt a healthy coping mechanism where we release happy hormones to make us feel better.

Another way we can learn healthy coping mechanisms is through volunteer work, where we give our time to help those less fortunate than ourselves. We can also keep a gratitude journal where we list five things a day we are grateful for - or involve ourselves in a hobby/learn new skills/use our passion - and so work through what's called positive psychology.

However, sadly, life doesn't equip or teach our teenagers healthy methods of coping. Neither do we take time to sit and hear what our teens have to say. We are often looking to FIX a problem rather than empower our teens that it is okay to feel what they feel: To take some time out. Have a hot bath. Pull the bed covers over their head. Escape into avoidance mode; whether it be gaming or through those coping mechanisms that we secretly despise as parents. Temporary avoidance can be a healing strategy. More importantly, ACKNOWLEDGING what a child needs when their feelings overwhelm, is a tool in itself for leveraging change.

If you are in fear as a parent or desperate to know where to turn to for help, then why not give me a call? I have had over 35 years of experience in teaching, pastoral care, prison restorative justice, resilience education, one-on-one sessions with parents and teens, and parenting four teens of my own. I would love to see your teenager's life turn around and I would be thrilled too to give you some strategies that work.

As a behaviour transformation strategist for teenagers I am privileged to see lives changed forever! I'd love you to join me on that journey!

Why not message me now at

NB If you or a child in your care is in need or urgent medical attention please dial 111 in New Zealand or your local country emergency number.

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