Employers urged to show understanding and support

Employers are being urged to show understanding for employees, who are under pressure at home from the unacceptable behaviour of teenage children.

The parent support organisation, TOUGHLOVE, says the problem is widespread throughout New Zealand, cuts across socio-economic and cultural differences and is often to blame when hitherto exemplary employees appear less attentive and committed to their work.

“Understandably, employers prefer staff to leave personal problems at home.  But, in the real world, this isn’t always possible and it’s not unusual for good employers to be supportive at times of bereavement, relationship difficulties or family illness.

“Similarly, we would also ask them to be supportive when they know that an employee is trying to cope with a teenage child who is behaving unacceptably,” says Geoff Andrews, Chief Executive Officer of TOUGHLOVE Auckland Inc.

“We would suggest that companies cut such parents a bit of slack if they require time off to, for example, discuss their child’s behaviour with the school dean.  And we’d also ask employers to think about recommending TOUGHLOVE’s services to employees in this situation.

“With our input, the employee may well be transformed back into the motivated, focussed and competent person who was originally employed.

“In fact, the skills, self-knowledge and self-confidence typically achieved by parents involved with TOUGHLOVE, might make them even more valuable employees than they were before their family crisis erupted.  Moreover, they may be all the more loyal and committed because of their employer’s understanding attitude,” he says.

Mr Andrews also recommends that employers bring TOUGHLOVE in to facilitate half day in-house workshops for parents of teenagers.  These too, he says, might help employees cope with otherwise apparently insurmountable problems at home, whilst making them more effective team members.   

TOUGHLOVE has been in operation across New Zealand since the 1980s, helping tens of thousands of distressed parents reclaim their own and their children’s lives from meltdown.  The organisation’s weekly parent support groups are held during evenings and are run by local volunteers who have all experienced for themselves the trauma of dealing with teenagers who behave unacceptably.        

“Such behaviour can simply be a matter of playing truant, not doing homework or behaving disrespectfully to other family members.  But it could also be something more serious , such as the teenager experimenting with drugs, alcohol or promiscuity or, worse still, engaging in violence so that other family members, including younger siblings, are no longer safe,” Mr Andrews explains.         

“When parents aren’t able to stop this type of behaviour, they typically suffer a massive loss of confidence.  Shame, grief, worry and embarrassment are also normally part of the mix, in ways that can impact on health, put a huge strain on relationships and, all too often, impair the parent’s ability to perform in their place of employment.

“We understand that employers have many other pressing issues to deal with. Even so, we would recommend a supportive attitude to employees coping with troublesome teens. Apart from anything else, this approach may well be the best way of optimising a return on the time, effort and money expended on training-up good staff members.  

“There’s a widespread misconception that TOUGHLOVE stands for a harsh and punitive approach to dealing with out-of-control teens.  That’s simply not our position. Instead, we believe that teenagers need a clear sense of structure, boundaries and consequences and that, above all, they need consistency.  Our name reflects the realisation that parenting is a tough job and that love is an essential part of it,” he says.

Mr Andrews adds that parents may not always be willing to volunteer information about their rebellious teenage children to colleagues or employers. He recommends sensitivity and a non-prying and non-judgmental attitude when broaching the topic.

TOUGHLOVE is CYF-accredited, with participation kept strictly confidential.  According to a survey carried out between October 2011 and April 2012 by Wellington-based research company, Litmus Limited, 91 percent of parents attending TOUGHLOVE groups would recommend the experience to other parents.

Of those surveyed, 84 percent also agreed that TOUGHLOVE had given them the confidence to deal with their teens, whilst providing them with the skills needed to change their own reactions and behaviour. Meanwhile, 32 percent agreed that involvement with TOUGHLOVE had led to better education, training and employment opportunities for their teens.

Further information concerning TOUGHLOVE is available at www.toughlove.org.nz or by telephoning the freephone number: 0800 868 445.

For further comment, please contact:

Geoff Andrews
Chief Executive Officer
TOUGHLOVE Auckland Inc.
09 624 4363   0210 546240