Living with Mr No Idea

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images
Pre-teen has an irritating new, two-word, passive response to just about every question: "No idea."

It can be a struggle for parents to deal with this sort of response and the accompanying moodiness. It's not easy finding a pathway through it to maintain some sort of communication that's more than a sour grunt, a "No idea", or, if he's feeling more communicative, a scathing comment.

Moodiness can be one of the more significant things that parents face from their youngster when adolescence hits.

Its source is a mix of hormonal change, a biological need to assert independence with a conflicting need to feel loved and supported, and feelings of insecurity about where they sit in the scheme of things and what the future holds for them. Then there are all the external pressures they face.

It's enough to make anyone moody just thinking about it.

Being communicative is not something you can force. With a teenager it's about being available, being sensitive to what might be behind a mood, being calm (a Herculean challenge at times), being respectful of their age and having clear and reasonable boundaries.

Adolescent counsellors Harris Clemes and Reynold Bean suggest several ways in which you can quietly work at breaking through.

Look for the occasions when personal attention seems to be needed. Sometimes just listening and letting them know they've been heard can work wonders. They don't necessarily want an answer, let alone in-depth instruction on how you would deal with a situation. If they get to that point, they'll ask.

Show affection in what you say and do. "I love you", "I really like you", "You're OK" may be scoffed at but will still register inside. You might find that a smile, wink, touch, nudge or hug, when appropriate, will do the job just as well.

Be specific with praise. Say exactly what it was that you liked. Approval for good things done is a must to balance disapproval or criticisms for mistakes or misbehaviour.

Share interest, hobbies and life concerns with your teens. They mightn't be particularly interested and don't burden them with all your problems, but you never know when a more adult conversation or question about these things might come out of the blue.

Occasionally do something special that may help make them feel important and more adult. Go together to an activity or event of interest, shop together for something special, or go out to lunch for just the two of you.

Don't expect miracles overnight. Teenagers can be quite stubborn, on principle. It will take some persistence but once you find an opening and your teen decides to go with it, what seemed like the impossible can happen.

 - Ian Munro


Words like 'Get real', and 'So's your old man!'