I sometimes work with groups of parents and frequently hear people say things such as: "Young people today are under far more pressure than we were when young" and "No one prepares you for being a parent - you just muddle through as best you can."
As a parent, I've had some experience of coping with teenage problems and so was really pleased to see this set of tapes intended to help parents and others who work with young people.
Tapes about Teenagers come from the Trust for the Study of Adolescence, a non-profit making organisation which produces and markets low-cost materials for parents, teenagers and professionals. Each one is between 45 and 70 minutes long and accompanied by a booklet. They aim to give insight into a range of issues affecting young people today. Most importantly, they aim to help people caught up in difficult situations, and give practical advice.
I looked at five titles in the series, which also includes drugs, alcohol and sexuality. Each tape explores an issue by presenting the views and experiences of young people and parents affected by it.
The Samaritans estimates that in any year one in every 100 young women in the 16 to 19 age group tries to kill herself. This is four times the number of young men who do so. With actual suicide, however, the opposite is true with young men outnumbering young women by three to one. In the Suicide and Self-Harm tape, we hear from the foster mother of a young Asian woman who tried to poison herself, from a young man in prison, a 14-year-old girl who overdosed after her first sexual relationship and from a psychiatric nurse who helped a student recover from attempted suicide. We also hear from people who have been affected by self-mutilation. Far from being completely depressing, the tapes show how people coped with the situation.
Teenagers under Stress covers a range of situations including antisocial behaviour, drugs, teenage pregnancy and eating disorders and gives good advice to parents about how to assess a situation and when to intervene. With this topic, as with all the others, the emphasis is very much on keeping channels of communication open.
In Teenagers and Divorce, all the painful feelings - guilt, blame, loss, rejection - are spelt out and the young people are very clear about how situations could have been dealt with better. "Nobody told us what was going on" was the recurring message from them all.
The tape about step-parenting looks at ways of introducing a new parent into the family. As Jilly Cooper says in the introduction to the booklet: "Hearing young people, as well as mothers and fathers, talk about jealousy and rivalry, about their needs and their difficulties in step-families is an excellent way of encouraging greater understanding."
The booklets which accompany the tapes are excellent in that they summarise all the issues raised, but also expand on them. There are also lists of books and of addresses of specialist organisations. I would heartily recommend these tapes to anyone, professional or otherwise, who has an interest in helping young people cope with their problems.
Teachers involved with the pastoral curriculum, youth workers, school nurses, counsellors, social workers and many others should find them a great help.