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Tough but loving it

SARAH ARGYLE
Last updated 05:00 27/02/2013
Geoff Andrews
Sarah Argyle
TEACHING TOUGHLOVE: Geoff Andrews is the chief executive of ToughLove Auckland, a New Zealand charity that offers support to parents being challenged by their teenagers.

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Bringing a child into the world is a miracle, a privilege and a gift of life.

Along with the joy of parenthood comes challenges particularly with teenagers.

Many parents turn to ToughLove for help and support.

The volunteer support group is run by parents who have used the programme and now want to give back.

The $40 course runs in seven different areas across Auckland and in several other regions throughout the country.

ToughLove Auckland chief executive Geoff Andrews says parents who attend the programme are loving parents who care about their children.

"As adults, parents get into patterns of behaviour and it's quite challenging to change behaviour.

"It's about the parent changing the way they, as adults, respond rather than react to their adolescent's behaviour."

The focus of ToughLove is on boundaries and consequences and teaching parents when to step back and when to respond.

Mr Andrews says most parents react because of the emotional bond they share with their child.

"Parents need to take control back in the home and feel more in control without being controlling."

Previously there have been misconceptions associated with the work of ToughLove.

"The tough part of ToughLove is not about being tough on the kids it's because it's tough on the parents.

"Our focus is keeping the family together. We're totally against kicking kids out of the home. We believe the best place for them is in a loving home with their parents."

Parents are encouraged to seek help sooner rather than later.

"We all hope the behaviour is going to get better or go away but it's about facing up to it before it becomes a crisis and before it tears the family apart," he says.

Mr Andrews believes one of the most important thing parents gain from the programme is the realisation they're not the only ones experiencing such challenges.

He says he often witnesses a pattern where parents have no issues with some of their older children but they hit a wall with their younger children.

Karen is one such parent to experience this and turn to ToughLove for support.

The Howick resident has three children - two daughters and a son.

Her eldest daughter wasn't a "problem child" but her two younger children tipped her over the edge until she "didn't know where to turn".

"My son was involved with drugs, was in a lot of debt and was unable to hold down a job. When my younger daughter was 16 she moved out of home."

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After exhausting all her options Karen resorted to Google and searched "problem teenagers" where she came across ToughLove.

Karen still attends ToughLove classes 18 months on despite the fact her son hasn't touched drugs for a year and her daughter has moved back home.

"It was me who had to change. You can't change other people. I needed to learn how to not criticise or react. Your own behaviour has a knock-on effect for your children," Karen says.

"ToughLove is a support group second to none where you collect tools for your own tool box."

ToughLove Howick is held at Te Whare Ora in Uxbridge Rd.

For more information or to enrol for the programme email toughlove.auck@xtra.co.nz or phone 624 4363.

- Eastern Courier

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