KATE Walker has numerous degrees and worked at length in a high-pressure corporate environment.
Yet six years ago she was floundering, mentally exhausted and considering quitting her job.
The cause of her angst was not at work but at home: as she struggled to discipline and raise her rebellious pre-teen daughter, she was also fighting a gnawing fear that she was a parenting failure.
“I was in a situation with my then 12-year-old and I couldn’t find help,” she said. “I spent a fortune on bits and pieces for my daughter but I needed some help.
“I thought I could fix things, but I needed to step back, get perspective from parents in the same situation and take a different tack.”
The occupational therapist and owner of Newcastle-based Upshot Occupational Therapy has founded the Rollercoaster Parents Network to help parents whose lives are being “ruined” by teenagers whose behaviour may range from demanding to illegal.
A part of the problem, she says, is that parents act to make themselves feel better but are not necessarily doing the right thing by their kids.
“I’m not saying ‘kick your kids to the curb’ but as parents we need to take our power back,” she says.
“We are not building resilient children. We have to give them choices that are hard because that’s what they will face in the world.”
“It’s natural for teens to rebel but parents are coping by giving them more. It’s creating a generation that learns that bad behaviour pays off.”
Parents who have an initial consultation with Mrs Walker can join the closed network on Facebook, a forum for both support and advice.
Mrs Walker assists parents who are struggling to define the problems they are facing, understand how their situation makes them feel and impacts on their lives and then build what she calls a “buffet” of skills, tricks and tips to help get them through.
She helps them build optimism, stop blaming themselves, accept help when it is offered and build on their own health and resilience.
“Parents put their kids first no matter what but parents need to put themselves first because if you fall over, they will too,” she says.
Mrs Walker said Rollercoaster Parents Network offered a unique business service to parents of teens and utilised qualified, registered health professionals intent on providing professional support and research-based information in a safe place.
“Parents need to know that what they are feeling is normal and ok and that they are not alone,” she says.
Ms Walker holds a free meeting on the third Thursday of the month at Souths Leagues Club from 7pm. Details via firstname.lastname@example.org.