Creating a sense of home for that emerging teen

Kya de Longchamps suggests interior design tricks, a few set house rules and safe room designation could help with the eternal teen struggle — that difficult transition period from cute cub to acceptable, house-trained adult.

School age teenagers, for all their operatic bravado and elastic eye rolling, are often not ready to even take a test flight from the nest area, but they should be actively bobbing on a branch preparing to launch. Whether their home life and surroundings increases their competence to thrive alone is really down to you.

Go away!

Putting aside their natural rejecting behaviour towards you (inevitable) — peers are perceived as the primary life giving sustenance of any teen. Accepting their choice of friends and giving some added consideration to where they can hang-out with a reasonable measure of privacy — this is intergenerational gold.

Few of us have room for an adolescent den but is there an alternative to banishing flame-cheeked older kids to their bedrooms? Hangar-sized, open-plan homes with no private bolt-holes are distressing for teenagers forced into company with walking, talking, agonisingly embarrassing authority figures. It’s a developmental reality —we have to deal with that sometimes unhinged shape-shifter from day to day.

Spare rooms offer a chance for blessed double duty, never more so as kids are now fully ‘wired in’ with mobiles and wireless technologies, so a couple of speakers will allow teens to amplify their music or kick up the performance of a laptop to live-stream a movie. Pocket doors can slice an open extension or conservatory off as a proper room.

Think outside the box. Is your garage under-used? How about insulating and ventilating it to a habitable standard, and adding some safe space heating for informal gatherings? Coping with the responsibilities, freedom and limits of a communal privilege —this designation of space is a useful dry-run for house and flat shares (and no, they will never thank you).

Even out the gender balance of the decor and keep things as clean and neutral as possible. Add some slouchy flop spots with bean-bags and/or even a sofa-bed. Bench style Clic-Clack sofa beds are ideal for seating and occasional over-nights and come in a range of fizzing designs from €299 at Harvey Norman.

A ColourMatch kettle from Argos is €12. Add a tray, and few sachets of instant coffee and some mugs and you are suddenly the golden mother or father of legend. If they don’t make efforts to clean up and respect the rules — withdraw the availability of the room or detached den (don’t catasrophize —be reasonable).

Safe at home and online

Web freedom is a teenager’s highest prize. Leaving pre-teens alone with internet enabled technology in their bedroom or den? Well let Suzanne Franks and psychologist Tony Wolf illustrate this conflicted moment for a younger child in a little vignette from their best selling parenting book: ‘Get Out of My Life , But First Take Me and Alex into Town’ (2012 edition)

‘Hey want to see my new Xbox?

‘Yeah, go on, show me’

‘Hey, d’wanna see a picture of a naked woman?’

‘Yeah, sure, is it okay if I look at her later.’

In short, save the child that conflict, limit access with suitable (often free) parental software, and keep under 13s under your eye.

Fashion victim

Just when you’re getting over the shock of being told with unconcealed pity that those rad’ runners are not real Converse, you discover that your child has become design, and even brand conscious in the bedroom. This is largely the province of girls (a recent headline grabbing post on Mumsnet.com shrieked out to the waiting world: ‘I cleaned my son’s room and found a Pringles tube full of URINE’ — but more of that later}.

Their brain has not even finished growing, but you still have to relinquish to some change while letting youngsters cling, as needed, to relics of their cherished past. Paste-the-wall wallpapers used as a feature on one wall rarely require more than three rolls, and can be whipped down with a grab at a corner. Paint is cheap and white paint rarely causes argument.

Refreshing these essential large canvases together with bed linens in the room really changes everything. Together, look for completely adult furnishings — go second hand where possible, the choice in almost new and retro should excite their imagination, and is a good lesson in personalising on a budget. Shelving units that take just a small bit of floor are essential for music, books and sentimental memorabilia which can find its way to top tiers.

‘The Room Planner’ by Paula and Phil Robinson (Ebury Press) suggests including less not more flat surfaces for the absent-minded teen, as they otherwise get slathered in assorted stuff. In terms of colour and mind melting pattern — remind yourself that this is after all, not about you. What do they need and want? Ask — don’t simply decide.

If the child is open to it, introduce some simple working knowledge of how to arrange a single interior space. Shared quarters in the future will have to serve the various roles around the big three of relaxing, sleeping and probably studying or working at a screen. Just a ‘that’s cool’ when looking at a room-set in a magazine can give you valuable clues about their halting venture into style.

Lead by example in terms of decluttering and organising storage in your rooms, but respect autonomy and nurture confidence in their placement choices (even if they are not what you would do).

Barked solutions based on your taste and vast experience is likely to breed resentment in an emerging independent spirit.

The swamp

Some teenagers for all their ferocious demands for change, rail against any enforced alternation in the timeline of their bedrooms. For some this even includes cleaning up. If you get even a hint of positivity, acknowledge it immediately when you and/or your child have made their room clean and straight.

Even a darkly glowering 14-year-old receives and understands that sense of spiritual relief. If you have surrendered the battle of the bedroom, and can bear the smell, your only real responsibility after 15 or so, is to knock before entering and to provide a comfortable bed. If and when they run out of clothes and are barred from eating upstairs —well, that’s life, baby.

Laundry baskets ensure favourite clothes get washed. Printer trays keep school book lists and such in order. Rolling up that dirty bedding into a pillow case, a brilliant space saver. Can’t find your phone — try clearing the floor and properly assign a place for it.

A tidier room equals less intrusion by the nosey oldies. Show how it’s done, lower the nag quotient and up consistent, logical consequences for poor behaviour — just as real life will surely do.

* Recommended reading: ‘Get Out of My Life, But First Take Me and Alex into Town’ by Suzanne Franks & Tony Wolf, is funny, informative and comforting, and one of the top guides to surviving and thriving with your children through those frenetic teenage years. Profile Books. €13.50.


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