13 essential things parents need to tell their 13-year-old children

Listen to yourself, don’t compare yourself to others, and if you’re in pain – don’t ignore it

Thirteen essential things various professionals want parents to tell their children as they enter their teens.

1. Teenage years can be shite and brilliant – often at the same time

Enjoy its craziness if you can and learn to love and be loved. By people who matter. To you. – Consultant paediatric psychiatrist Dr Kieran Moore

2. If you are ever in any sort of pain – physical and/or mental – don’t ignore it

Your body and mind are telling you there’s something wrong. Get help. Learn how to treat the pain. One day you will understand and the pain will go or you will manage it and by definition live YOUR life. – Dr Moore

3. Listen to yourself

Listen to your brain when it tells you you're stressed. Listen to your body when it's telling you it's tired, or hurt. Listen to yourself when things make you happy so you know to keep them around, and listen to the things that make you sad so you know how to leave them behind. Listen to yourself, and I promise I will listen to you too. – Fantasy author Dave Rudden, whose childhood experiences of bullying and anxiety motivated him to write for teens


3. Don’t compare yourself to others

Just be the best you can be. Don’t model yourself on some perfected image you have seen on social media where the photos have been not just filtered, but manipulated beyond reality. And certainly, don’t measure success by how many “likes” someone gets for posting a selfie or any other indicator of online popularity. It’s real life that counts. – Parentline CEO Aileen Hickie

5. Be true to your unique self

You can never be who you are not. Learning what you value is an important part of finding meaning in life. Embrace change as an essential part of life’s journey and don’t be afraid to love because that’s what gives our lives such richness. – Clinical psychologist and CEO of St Patrick’s Mental Health Services, Paul Gilligan

6. Trust works both ways

The more we can trust you, the more freedom you'll get, but you need to trust us too – we're only asking to check your devices from time to time, to support and protect you, not to interfere in your life. – CEO of Cybersafe Ireland, Alex Cooney

7. One non-negotiable rule

Never arrange to meet up with someone you met online that you don’t know in real life, unless you have first discussed and agreed it with me. – Alex Cooney

8. Don’t confuse listening and agreeing

I am listening and hearing everything you are saying, I am just not agreeing with you. I understand it must be difficult if all your friends are allowed “insert conflict of choice” but I don’t think it’s right for you, so where can we come to a compromise? – Child psychotherapist Colman Noctor

9. Keep talking to me

I know that's not always going to be easy, especially if you've done something you think I won't be happy about, but I won't judge you and will always try to help you find a solution. – Alex Cooney, for online problems but applies to every aspect of teenage life

10. Friends will come and go

There are always new friends around the corner but pick wisely. It's never worth pretending to be someone you're not to get in with the "cool" crowd; far better to be yourself with one or two true friends. – Aileen Hickie, with additional advice from a teenager

11. Rejection hurts but is impossible to avoid

Being rejected by someone does not mean you are not liked or are not important, it just means that in this situation, with another person, things didn’t work out for you. – National Youth Council of Ireland’s health programme manager Rachael Treanor

12. Skills for saying NO if somebody is pressurising you into unwanted physical contact

– Body language: stand tall, keep your head up and keep eye contact. Feel strong and equal. Believe in yourself.
– Use short, clear statements: I don't like, I don't want to, I am not comfortable with this.
– Say something positive first: for example, I want to have a good time but . . . I really like you, but I don't want to do that
– State your views and wishes: "Yes, I hear what you are saying, but I'm still not going to . . ."
– You don't need to give a reason: avoid being manipulated into giving further explanations.
– Expect them to accept what you are saying. In extreme situations where you are not being heard, or you are under threat, you should leave or look for help. – Rachael Treanor

13. There’s a book for what you’re feeling

You can take comfort in reading about someone who has been through the same thing as you and come through it. Mind Yourself: The Mental Health and Wellbeing Reading Guide reviews more than 400 brilliant books on issues like stress and anxiety, fears, sadness, relationships with others and body positivity. Even if you haven't been a reader up to now, why not dip in and give it a try? – CEO of Children's Books Ireland, Elaina Ryan.

– Advice for parents on speaking to young teenagers
Ask questions, then shut up and listen