• Anne O'Connor


I know it's probably meant to be humorous - but I couldn’t stop thinking about this photo (uncredited) when I saw it doing the rounds on social media. It feels to me that it says more about the original author and their unhappy experiences, rather than contributing to a genuine debate about what children and teenagers need to know about life.

My version may not be so funny and I know it won't meet with universal approval, but I think I’d be happier (and more optimistic about society) if children and teenagers were instead given advice that was more like this.

1. We understand that all behaviour is communication and that if your behaviour makes us feel bad, then you probably feel even worse. 2. Hearing ‘No’ is part of life. You are still loved unconditionally. 3. We will help you understand that choices and actions have natural consequences and we will be there for you when mistakes are made and consequences are hard to deal with. 4. Life is not always fair – but we are always there for you while you build resilience and strength for the tough stuff. 5. We try our best to make decisions in your best interests, even though you may disagree with them sometimes. 6. You are the centre of our world. We also have our own lives and are not dependent on you to make us happy. 7. Everyone is entitled to respect. Full stop. 8. Work can be satisfying for it’s own sake. Find something that motivates you and allows you to give something back to the world. 9. We understand that sometimes your emotions and feelings are in the driving seat. We will help you to name those feelings, to honour them and to find healthy ways of expressing them. 10. We understand that life can be confusing and overwhelming sometimes and that you might make poor decisions. Remember you are loved unconditionally and we are here if you want our help. AND FINALLY … 11. Keep talking. We are listening.

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