Muddy talks parenting with Lorraine Candy
“All teenage girls think their mums are a bit rubbish”. Journalist and mother of four Lorraine Candy talks parenting, moody teens and motherhood with Muddy.
If your daughter isn’t exactly your number one fan right now, don’t despair. Lorraine Candy has wise words and nifty techniques to get through teen parenting’s hard parts, in her new book, Mum What’s Wrong With You: 101 things only the mothers of teen girls know
So Lorraine, who did you write the book for?
It’s for anyone who is thinking they can’t do this mothering bit during adolescence, anyone questioning what they are doing wrong. There are so many small things you can try to keep a connection, which will make it all better in the long run. Between the ages of 12-17 teens go through giant brain changes. If you understand that, and the effect of hormones on them, then you can give them, and you, a break. I also wanted mums to realise they could take care of themselves better and that they are doing a good job. We often forget the good bits when we focus on the trauma and challenges we face and we ignore our instinctive skill.
What prompted the book?
I’ve been keeping a diary since I had children 18 years ago, and also writing a parenting column for more than a decade, and I felt it should all go in one place. So many mums told me to put it in a book because I had access, as a journalist, to so many experts who helped me reframe my thinking with my girls, which made our lives easier together. It isn’t a ‘how to’ or indeed, a book of advice, it’s more a gentle, reassuring guide for mums of teen girls who find it all a bit of a shock and a surprise as I did.
Is it just for mums of teens?
You should read it if you have a child aged 8 onwards; you should read it if you are planning kids – really, it’s for anyone becoming a mum. It’s also about helping women in midlife, so when their kids hit their teens, they know about the advantages and (usually) low risks of HRT, a medicine that can really change their lives. I explain all the midlife and teen biology via experts.
Tell us more about how taking care of yourself can help your teen.
If you take care of yourself, your daughter will see that. You are her biggest female role model as she grows up and she will learn that taking care of yourself is a good thing, so she will care for herself. Also, she needs to know she isn’t responsible for your happiness; you are, so do what makesyou happy. If she feels she has to be or do things to make you happy, that’s a huge pressure to place on a young girl, so don’t do it!
Any tips for getting ahead with pre-teen daughters?
Stay connected, slow down and just enjoy being in the room with her. No need to ‘do’ stuff all the time, just being makes kids very happy. Learn to actively listen when she speaks and not to try to fix everything for her. Keeping connections is key and this is a very small and easy thing to do. Also, let her be her. Rein in your expectations and really do talk to her about love, sex, intimacy from an early age. And learn about her hormonal changes too, some girls need a lot of support and GPs don’t always realise this, so it helps if you can ask the right questions.
Do you think the book’s advice also relates to sons?
Identity is the key issue for parenting teenagers – their need to create one of their own. Their brains get rebuilt through their teens and it is an overwhelming drive. This affects both boys and girls. Someone once described it to me as this: you are holding a rope and your child has the other end. As the child starts to grow and hits their teens, they are suddenly thrown into a whole new set of feelings, a whole new body, the world is much darker and more confusing for them and they will thrash around all over the place on the rope. Your job is to remain patient and just hold the rope. Not rescue them or save them, or grapple with them, just hold the rope until they calm down again. That’s what it felt like for me.
On those occasions when we might, ahem, lose our rag with our kids, how do we come back from that?
We all lose our temper, we all get it wrong, we all do things we regret. The important thing is to learn from it and remember, tomorrow is another day. You can also try to work out what is causing you to feel this way from your own childhood. In the book there is a wonderful exercise that (counsellor) Phillippa Perry makes her clients do, which is around family relationships and that really helped me figure out why I get so angry some times.
If you had to recommend just one simple thing to keep relations on an even keel what would it be?
According to many experts I spoke to, eating together is the best way to stay connected. I have been careful not to make food a big issue at home, and I make sure we all eat together once a week.
Writing your first book in lock-down must have been a bit different to your previous roles, editing Cosmo, ELLE and The Sunday Times Style?
Writing a book was so much harder. I had to get up at 5am most days to get it done. It was so much research and fact-checking, and then making sure my family was comfortable with their privacy and the stories I talked about in the book. It was very emotional too, as I was also saying goodbye to my eldest. She left home in Autumn 2020 to go to Bath University. It really was quite a rollercoaster.
So what do your kids think about the book now it’s published and no going back?
Hard to say, as they think I am an idiot – all teenage girls think their mums are a bit rubbish. It’s a way of separating from us in the least painful way possible for them (though it is quite painful for mums!). My 14-year-old son isn’t interested, but my 10-year-old says she is very proud of it.
Lorraine’s book, Mum What’s Wrong With You: 101 things only the mothers of teen girls know is out now