How to have a difficult conversation with a teen or young adult

We spoke to Dr John Sharry, from Parents Plus and about any advice he would give to parents about how to have one of those tricky conversations with their sons or daughters.

There’s more information here on communication.

Dr John Sharry is holding talks on the following:

‘Parenting Pre-teens and Teenagers’ DUBLIN COURSE (aged 10-16 years)
• Getting along with and understanding your teenager
• Setting rules with teenagers
• Dealing with conflict/ Positive discipline
• Encouraging your teenager and building their confidence
Venue: Wynns Hotel, Lower Abbey Street, Dublin City Centre (Just at the LUAS red stop, close to DART and Busarus)
Dates: Run over three Thursday nights: 5th, 12th and 19th November ( 8-10pm
Cost: €75 (single place), €130 (2 places booked together)
Price includes a copy of John Sharry’s ‘Parenting Teenagers’ book.



Back to school for parents and students

The time of year where, we wonder where the time went. Those long drawn-out weeks that seemed never-ending have pretty much evaporated.

The words ‘back to school’ have been plastered all over shops since the summer started, so they became easy to books by Nikki

Now it’s the end of August they might take on extra weight. Going back to school can be as anxiety provoking for a parents as much as a student.

Back to school anxiety

Some young people love school, but others can have many fears and experience anxieties about different things.

Study workload, bullying, fitting in and a fear of being judged are concerns for a lot of young people going to school.

Using reassurance

Young people can put themselves under a lot of pressure for school. Make sure to check in with your son or daughter about how they’re feeling about school and why.

When talking to them about school use reassurance sparingly. Too much reassurance will prevent them from learning to reassure themselves.

Acknowledge, understand and listen to their anxiety. Try not to dismiss it. Do try to empathise not sympathise.

Work on solutions together, letting them take the lead.

Whatever the outcome, don’t support the option of avoiding school.

Maybe not so bad

Things are often not as as bad they can anticipate. Going back to school is no exception.

They may be worried about going back as they’ve missed some time last year, for whatever reason and find that it goes unnoticed or unmentioned. Help them prepare for that too. If they’ve been building how everyone will react  in their head, it could be devastating to have people act like it was no big deal.

Work through all the possible scenarios they might face. Ask them to remember a time when they were dreading something, and then it turned out OK. Remind them of this.

Encourage positive self-talk to reduce back to school anxiety. Tell them to work hard and think past the first day and week, focusing on the second day, or the second week. Once they’re back in the swing of it, the new term might be manageable.

Worried about bullying

If you’re worried about bullying, and they have experienced it before see how they’re feeling about this. Has the school been notified?

Every school in Ireland has an anti-bullying policy, but sometimes, unfortunately, they need to be reminded to act upon it.

If your son or daughter has experienced bullying they will more than likely need to work on their self-esteem. Come up with some ideas to do stuff they enjoy at the end of their first week so they have something to look forward to.

Have fun

Communicate that there will always be challenges in school, but as much as possible they should try to enjoy the time.

Getting the balance of school work with taking part in extra-curricular activities and socialising will help your son or daughter build resilience and have an good sense of wellbeing.

Leaving Cert results: The parent role

Students all over the country will be receiving their Leaving Cert results tomorrow. Parents will be faced with one of three situations if their son or daughter is getting their results.

results Which ever case you find yourself in, your relationship with your son and daughter is the most important. Your reaction can be more important than you think.

Your son or daughter may receive:

  • Good results – they get the marks they wanted or better
  • Not the results they wanted, and not a indication of they work they put in
  • Disappointing results.

Remember to manage your reaction carefully. Working out how they feel and tempering your own feelings right now can be helpful to let the dust settle a bit. Then, when you’re both ready you can work on the next steps, or any necessary solutions together.

Whatever happens you’re not finished parenting yet (!) and your guidance and support is an important now as ever.

If they get good results

Of course, if they get good results, celebrate and congratulate them. They did a great job and let them know you’re proud of them.

Do make sure they’re happy too and not harboring any deep rooted expectations of doing even better. It’s all relative and some students put a lot of pressure on themselves so see where they’re at.

If they didn’t get the results they wanted

There can be a number of factors for this. If they don’t get the results they had expected, do your best not to weigh in and offer your opinions as to why that might have happened.

Try not to let your son or daughter, or you yourself make comparisons with others, as this helps no one really.

All is not lost for them, this is where your support and open-mindedness can really come into play. There are a many different paths that can be taken to the one destination. Together you can work out a solution, about what are the best next steps.

Take a look at the school leavers’ section we developed on to outline all available to someone who has just gotten their results, from CAO, PLC courses, getting papers rechecked to repeating the Leaving Cert.

Disappointing results

There are any number of reasons for this scenario. Take these into consideration before you react. Was there a problem in the family or with peers during the year? Have they always struggled at school? Or it may be in fact that as you see it, they just didn’t put in the work.

It maybe very difficult to keep your opinion to yourself if it was the latter, but even so they maybe quite surprised and upset. The sudden realisation that their peers may now  be on a different track to them can be really frightening and upsetting.

Let them tell you what’s going on with them with the news of disappointing results. They know when results were bad.

If they never put the work in and just weren’t studious, this situation can be what turns them around and re-apply themselves by repeating, or look at alternative PLC courses that cover areas school never did.  Again, checkout the school leavers’ on for all the options they have now.

Encourage talking with friends

Check in with them to see how their friends did. This is a tricky one, as you need to find the balance where you’re not encouraging them to make unfair comparisons with others but just to make sure they’re checking in with friends who maybe very disappointed.

It’s an emotional time for young people and marks quite a milestone. We have the hindsight in knowing it’s not the be-all and end-all, but it can be hard to see that when you’re in it. Your support will really help through this time.

Thank you! Your subscription has been confirmed. You'll hear from us soon.
Sign up for our newsletter