The Adventures of Parenthood on the Riviera: Raising Teenagers
Raising Teenagers on the French Riviera
There’s no easy way to put this, raising teenagers anywhere in the world can be the mother of all problems but raising them on the Riviera is a challenge unto itself! All those wonderful facilities that delighted both you and them as primary age children suddenly become your worst nightmare when they start pushing the boundaries and want to be left to their own devices.
Yesterday they were snuggling up to you happy to watch Frozen for the fifth time, chatting away eagerly and hanging on your every word and today they’re slamming shut the door of their bedroom (that’s if they are even at home) and the only word that seems to be on offer is “whatever”.
The lies and deceit start, school grades are shipwrecked as they discover more interesting subjects such as the other sex! They always seem to want/need money and dress code has very definitely taken a turn for the worse as they push beyond the limits of individual identity and reject anything that makes them look like ‘one of the family’. You scratch your head in confusion and wonder what you did wrong. Here’s the good news – you did NOTHING wrong but that doesn’t mean you should just give up on the situation. Welcome to the wonderful world of teenagers!
The beautiful Riviera where you spent family moments picnicking on the beach, sharing family time in the plethora of enticing eateries or happy moments trekking up the glorious mountains or just enjoying time out at your country home have given way to the Riviera ‘den of iniquity’. Girls want to dress up and act like high (or not so high) class hookers (and this is no exaggeration) and the boys seem to want no less than 500 euros in their pockets because “that’s what it costs to have a good time at the weekend” and that’s what the girls expect from them.
Riviera/Monaco expectations are far too high. The downside of living here is that entertainment for teenagers comes at a price due to the unnaturally high levels of cash floating around and the glitterazzi and less glittering specimens that this attracts!
If there was any time to get your kids out of the area this is it. Don’t be surprised if your teen takes to smoking despite the fact that you don’t. Smoking amongst teens in France is one of the highest in Europe and at some point due to peer pressure, they all try it. It was a big shock to me when I found the first packet in my daughter’s school bag and it did take a lot of effort to coax her out of it, so take a deep breath (of smokeless air) and soldier on. Oh and by the way don’t fall for “You’re the only mother that doesn’t let me…….everyone else in my class is allowed to go/do it. I hate you!!” Just call the other mothers if you find yourself capitulating.
Schooling and other dangers……:
Many parents find the teen years are the time to take their children out of the stifling, over demanding French system and opt for a more international style education or boarding school option. My own daughter left and went away to school in Cambridge (UK) at sixteen to start studying for A levels which made for a smooth transit into the UK university system not to mention alienating her from the vices and devices of local Riviera night life. When she was spotted by a family friend coming out of a Russian restaurant in Monaco (has since closed down) after having told me she was going to Hagen Daz for ice cream with her girl friends and subsequently went into the red on her bank account (bar bills) amongst many other things, I knew it was time to take action. Today a grown, successful young woman she now recounts how when she was younger she would tell me she was spending the night with a girlfriend and that they would sneak off and ‘get invited’ to Jimmyz…..
My son was heavily into sport, every sport, which left very little time (still the case) for much else and that was his salvation plus the fact that he didn’t have the 500 euros in his pocket and so sport and matches took the place of nocturnal meanderings.
There is however something very positive that you can do and especially for your 14-18 year olds. Get them on an OUTWARD BOUND MONACO course. This will satisfy the wanderlust of curious teenagers and straighten out the wayward ones. Every year Outward Bound Monaco sends between 25 and 30 young local teenagers on summer courses to the UK and also hosts a Monaco-based course over the autumn half term. My son says it was a life changing experience and for my daughter it showed her that she was capable of far more than she ever knew possible. It is a cause dear to my heart as I was instrumental in setting up the charity in Monaco. Get your children to take a look at our Facebook page and if you would like info on how to enrol your teenagers then contact Vanessa on Vanessa@outwardboundmonaco.com
The Internet, chores and other tiresome subjects:
Yes your children will definitely spend more time talking and communicating with a screen than with real people but we just have to face it, that’s life these days. What you can do is be adamant about having no mobile phones pinging at family meal times or while you are all together at a restaurant. Get them to enable the in-flight function for the time you are eating. This will be far more effective than boiling over with rage and ending up having to confiscate the device. Stand firm on a few boundaries with their various media devices and stick to them. Be particularly careful with your girls who may be “chatting” to strange males on the Internet. You will need to check on them regularly, this is not spying; it’s just plain common sense.
Many of the children here have also grown up with domestic help and have no idea what “doing their fair share” means. As being a teenager generates a lot of extra washing, clearing up and general agro, it’s fair to expect them to pull their weight. Once again you need to stand firm on this one. It’s exhausting but if you give in once, you have made a rod for your own back forever. The carrot usually works better than the stick and doing chores together rather than separately gives you all time to reconnect.
Another Riviera/Monaco problem (although not exclusively) is alienation from your children because they are left in the hands of “nannies”/butlers/domestic help and therefore can become manipulative and resentful about the lack of time spent with you and will make you pay for it in bad behaviour…Don’t forget to allocate time with them and share an interest in their ‘world’ however weird it may seem.
Get advice, get the wider family involved:
Don’t try and go it alone with teenagers. It’s a little like reverting to the newborn years again. You will need your family and friends. My mother was an invaluable confidante for my daughter. When she didn’t want to communicate with me, she would tell all to my mother who was a very positive influence on her. Children develop a special relationship with their grandparents from a young age and this can be leveraged now to give you some rest and respite.
Over the years I have been called upon by parents to coach many “troublesome teens” and I’m pleased to say that that there is always a way through the fog. Sometimes it just takes someone else to see it. Your green-eyed monster will morph back into a human being again I promise, but the road is long and bumpy, so buckle up and “bonne route”!