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Introducing 'Common Ground' web-series

Every family has different challenges to overcome, and different ways of dealing with those challenges.

Follow our Common Ground families as they tackle the big issues faced by everyday kiwis, and have your say on how they could work together to get through it.

IN THIS VIDEO: 'Ep1: What Now'

Meet Jacob, a 17-year-old who’s trying to maintain a relationship with his biological father and butting heads with his mother. His behaviour escalates and he begins to challenge the household rules.

In this episode we meet Jacob, a 17-year-old high school student who lives with his younger sister, mother and his mother’s partner. We follow Jacob through two days in his life to find out what’s happening in his world.

Jacob has plenty of school friends, and in front of them he makes it seem like he is happy. At home Jacob mostly stays in his room. The rest of his family get on well, but Jacob doesn’t really feel like he connects with them.

Jacob is the only member of his family to stay in touch with his biological father Blair; though Blair isn’t really around much. More and more Jacob feels his dad’s absence, and is increasingly butting heads with his mum. Hoping someone will pick up on how he’s really feeling, Jacob’s behaviour gets more risky as he challenges and breaks the rules.

Building up to what is not their finest hour, the family soon discover that there are some things that cannot be ignored.

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The Common Ground videos cover subjects that may be of a sensitive nature, and there is some language throughout that may cause offense. Viewer discretion is advised.

Once you've watched the video, we'd love you to share your thoughts, ideas, advice and insights.

What do you think is going on for Jacob, and how could those around him best support him? Please share your best advice.

*Please note, by sharing your experience, you agree for it to be used by Common Ground online and offline to help encourage a conversation about supporting young people.
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Marie 19th Jun 17

Education awareness?  More like an action plan is needed to break the cycle of ho-hum attitudes blues and moods.

Both parents don’t seem to have any plan for him nor does the teen seem to have goals to look forward to. Yes, they say get a job etc. all normal things to expect, but it’s obvious he is experiencing the in - between boy moods to adulthood, and he has ‘no guide lines’ to help him transition into his new phase of life.  He needs perhaps an outdoor pursuit interaction and a different challenge in life to make him see though fresh eyes with his biological dad, if not at least the step dad he has with him now.

When our son was bullied at school and had other challenges, (not drink issues thank goodness) we had a plan that each year he and his dad would take time for at least 1 week, all to themselves in a fun activity that promotes bonding. We looked very hard into other plans to help him be challenged, and to do that one must take then out to a different environment. So, we worked hard to pay half of an out Ward-bound challenge getaway week, while Outward bound paid the rest for him to have an outdoor week pursuit with other parents. X1 parent per X1 teen, (total in group was 14) they went on sailing boats, camped nights in the bush while learning new skills etc. 

Our son had so much more confidence, got out of his comfort zone, had different things to talk about for weeks and good things to remember, and more motivation when he got back. We still make goals for him to look forward to each year that involves getting away. Often a lot is expected of teens but, there can be more ways to celebrate and prepare them for a better transition in to adulthood.

Even if they are only able to getaway overnight at camps that are no cost. Or fishing trips are great to help give them a fresh mind and new perspectives. Or several other activities like abseiling, white water rafting, kayaking, etc. But one must plan and want to be a part of life, and search for a challenge in life to keep them interested in life itself, and make it an expectation for them to go.

At least he has a male figure at home, many kids, boys don’t. And there is all sort of support out there. The daunting responsibilities of being an adult is forever, while being young goes so quickly. Kids remember what you do with them rather than what you tell them what they must do all the time, as we all know they have selective hearing.

So, make transitions to adulthood fun and something exciting rather than just ‘oh gotta get a job’, because they know that. They need realistic short goals.

1 Reply
Dereck Atters 1st Dec 16

Education and awareness.

0 Reply
Tuihana Swann 10th Jun 15

My grandson (19yrs) has displayed many of the behavioural traits shown in the video. His biological father (whom he never met) killed himself about 4 months ago. We as a whanau were all shocked but I know none of us really know what he (my grandson) is feeling. He has now left home and is working. My husband and I are constantly worried about him and do every thing we can to support him emotionally and financially. The parents of my grandson have done everything in their power for him.

5 Reply
McKenzie Collins 29th Oct 14

Although I’ve never been in the same situation, I definitely have experienced this sort of family environment growing up. As stereotypical as it sounds, the feeling of being confined is common with teenagers in a household. In my opinion, it’s neither the family’s fault nor the teenagers. It’s almost inevitable. We get to this stage where we desire independence, but we still need guidance. We want freedom, but we can’t always be trusted to make the right decisions. Of course, parents have the best in mind for us, as Jacob’s Mum does, but we don’t always see this. We’re stubborn at the best of times. Endless questioning, although maybe as a way to show interest from a parent, to us can feel demanding.

We really do value space. But the right amount of it. We need time alone to think about ourselves (not in the shallow but the reflective way), and the roles of the people around us. We also need space to avoid feeling suffocated. It gives us a chance to grow into our own skin. Of course, the person we become as a result, will be largely be due to our upbringing. Though in this case, it’s almost better if we don’t realise this. We’ll see ourselves developing individual morals, which satisfyingly separates us from a child - someone who has been given a set of values to follow.

As for the pressure to get into the work force, it’s the constant nagging, as Jacob experiences, that actually turns us off the idea of getting a job. We naturally lean towards defiance, as soon as we no longer feel it’s a choice. We actually feel much more independent, even if a parent has instigated the idea, if we endeavour to get a job themselves, and succeed in doing so. We need to be given the chance to discover and snap up opportunity alone and when we’re ready. It’s how we grow. Without this freedom, I think we continue to feel like people are on our backs, that we’re being judged and our actions watched, to a point where we don’t do much at all, because 1) we want to be alone, or 2) we feel the need to stand our ground against our parents - even if we know what they’re saying is right, and perhaps, in another situation, what we’d want to do.

I too feel better and more inclined to succeed when my parents avoid comparison as a means of motivation. As for Jacob, this is likely to only stint his growth as a person - already, he’ll feel unworthy, and under-achieved. The same sort of success in career, school, or sport, will start to seem unattainable for him. So it’s important that family members stay supportive. I think it’s good that parents are there when teenagers need them, but in most cases, it’s important that you let us come to you. Once again, we’ll feel we’re making their own decisions - and don’t worry, it’ll often be ones you’ve instilled in us.

Most importantly though, we appreciate when you treat us like adults, but also remember we are teenagers. Understand that we’re just getting used to the responsibility, and the pressure of ‘adulthood’. But also encourage that we can handle it. If we feel that you’re confident in our ability to achieve something alone, we’ll be more inclined to actually do it. We’ll do it for ourselves, and for the benefit of our relationship with you - which although we may not always display, we really do care about. As Jacob shows, he really does want to exceed the superficial father-to-son boundary with his Dad.

This is speaking from a teenager’s opinion, and obviously there are a lot of things we teenagers ought to do better to create a more peaceful family environment (attitude..). However, this is just giving some insight into what a teenager is likely to be thinking, why they’re acting the way they are, and how parents could potentially react to get past it.

10 Reply
Danny 28th Oct 14

A situation where parents break up can tear a child up. Most cases, parents go on and start new relationships and are ok with that transition but for a child, it creates all sorts of problems and can generally spiral to depression and dare I say…...suicide.

Parents need to stand by and show massive amounts of support and patience toward their kids when they find themselves in this situation. May I say I thoroughly enjoyed the video.

2 Reply
race 29th Oct 14

Hey Danny, Yeah it’s tough when parents break up! But the reason in the end is better for all concerned and especially the kids. No parent wants their child amongst the fighting, swearing and many many other abuses. The parents are adults (and should act like them). No matter how they feel about each other they should have the balls to make their children happy even though at different times each one of them will be suffering. We can’t change the past! No matter how we wish the clock could turn back. Things can not be undone but one thing we can do is Be True To ourselves - Do what is right for U and your family,

                        Families may not have to altogether But Togethers Families have It ALL.

0 Reply
max jenkins 28th Oct 14

i think, being a teenager myself, that the problem Jacob is having here is a crossfire of motivational things, giving constant encouragement to be successful, which he does not live up to (also making him feel a little depressed). This is combined with the message from his friends, which has this “no-one gives a f**k” “yolo”, all that, feel, which he listens to, causing him to make poor decisions, and have bad sleeping habits. at this point in his life, where Jacob soon needs to decide what career, he is being made by peer pressure, to spend his life in front of screens, and drinking. This rebellious culture he is part of has also successfully persuaded him that school is useless; we see that he is being told “lord of the flies sucks”...is this just the tip of the iceberg? if Jacob only has negative thoughts towards school, finding a career, etc. there is no wonder he does not want a job; has no interests related to them.

to solve this i think that he needs to change his habits related to sleeping, do some study, and be a little less influenced in how he thinks by his friends. definitely some pressure has to be removed from him by his mother. jobs are one of those things where you need experience, but as a teenager we can see that he will only think of it as something that separates him from his computer and his friends, and wastes his time. once we understand how a teenager might think at this age, we can actually give them a positive idea of what they can get from a job. i think that once he is doing something productive, that can effectively remove the pressure he gets from his family about this, and take the depression he is suffering to some extent away too.

3 Reply
Maureen 26th Oct 14

I didn’t notice a lot of talking going on, lots of demands on Jacob but no actual attempts to find out what’s going on for him.  Talk.

3 Reply
Stephanie Garvey 26th Oct 14

Jacob is behaving like a normal 17 year old in many ways. The mum never asked him what he would like to do? Jacob looked pretty lost and was not engaged in any outside interests or activities. I wondered if Jacob was depressed. Your children are people in their own right, listen to them, talk to them, get to know them. Help them build lives for themselves. Studies have shown that adolescents with more responsibilities do better with life skills, building character and over all have more positive outcomes. The family seemed like a nice family who cared, it’s just that Jacob needs to find his own path. Our job as parents is to be the guard rails, not drive the car for them.

3 Reply
june 24th Oct 14

As quoted by the beautiful and honorable Dame Whina Cooper…..Take care of our children, Take care of what they hear, Take care of what they see, Take care of what they feel, For how the children grow, so will be the shape of Aotearoa….meaning from a very young age and throughout their entire lives our children are learning, observing everything that surrounds them….

We as parents need to learn all of this before we decide to bring these beautiful children into this world….in Jacob’s situation at his age we need to let them be, let them make their own choices, but always be close by to catch them when they fall ( if they fall ) understanding their decisions,  laugh with them,  make time to take them camping or hunting…even a day at the beach would be good for you as a parent and for your teenager…it worked everytime for my family… One day your teenager will confide in you and trust you enough to open up and just talk with you…believe me I have 4 teenagers oops sorry 3 my eldest son is 20 yrs old now….

Lastly be patient, good things always happen to those who wait…I hope this helps in any way…thank you for letting me share this.

8 Reply
ange knibb 23rd Oct 14

I feel that Jacob is stuck in between a child and a young man. He wants to be an individual and take control of his own life, but still needs guidance and acceptance from his family. Maybe talking about all the changes that happen at this age may help. Let Jacob know that his family are there for him.

9 Reply
Zoe 22nd Oct 14

He needs some validation that his parents care about him and what to ASK how he is and wants to know what he is interested in, rather than ‘do the dishes’, ‘do this’ ‘do that.’ He wants them to give him time.

7 Reply
Joanne Robertson 19th Oct 14

The parents need to ‘invest’ time into their child. Letting him know they love him.

4 Reply
Makaia Carr 16th Oct 14

What a fantastic concept and great piece to watch, def gets you thinking….as a Mum of a 16 year old boy myself it really has opened my eyes even more to realise two things are very important to remember :
1 - Boys have feelings too
2. - And TRUE, REAL, 2-WAY communication is important!

10 Reply
Hape Gill 15th Oct 14

Jacob as I can see is dealing with some emotional issues
1. Disconnection…with real father although dad picks him up etc and hang out they have quantity not quality…this could be due to the separation..with his mother there is a disconnection by communication. Their communication is talking at each other not to each other..if mum could talk to him without unnecessary expectation of what he should do or say then I think things could be better between the two of them.
2. Unrealistic expectations…mum is genuine in her desire to see her son work and have some extra cash thus giving him self worth and her having something to be proud of with her son…as you could see the son is really interested in working…work is the furthest thing on his mind…without sitting with him firstly and seeing what his ambitions and dreams are and setting clear and simple goals that he is able to achieve and supporting him in his journey well the result is simple…mum didn’t see Jacob with a job in her timeframe…there was consistent asking about job searching…there was talk of other friends that had jobs…mum felt better when she got a job that she wanted for Jacob insisting that he was doing this job,when he started and that her yes was his yes…this brought mum satisfaction but not Jacob hence the response from Jacob in the negative…I don’t see a problem with Jacobs relationship with mums new partner if anything it looks like they get on better than his biological father…the behaviour from Jacob was a result of mums warm fuzzys not Jacobs mum was making herself feel better…when unreal expectations are placed on anybody you are either gonna get the fight or flight…
Jacobs way of dealing with his many issues are to do it alone…friends and whanau weren’t picking up the signs of his behaviour…as adults we would class this as typical teen behaviour…but is it typical?? Or is this just an adult way of copping out of things or down playing the fact that there are issues there but no biggy he will get over it??
Jacobs behaviours are reactive to what is happening in his life some cope by drinking and drugging why?? Pain…emotional pain…why because we do not have the tools to be able to deal with life pressures by ourselves..we need people to talk to, not people that have the answers to…just talk…

Jacobs issues
1. Mum and dad are not together
2. Mum has a new relationship
3. Mum has high expectations of Jacob
4. Mum expects Jacob to work
5. Mums and sons relationship is directive
6. Biological dad is on the scene however father son relationship has no affection nor connected love
7. Jacobs personal self worth
8. Jacobs self esteem
9. Jacobs emotional state internally

Jacobs external behaviour is one of hurt n pain internally
He is crying out for help
funny though no one is listening
and this happens on a regular basis with parents, friends and others
my 5cents on helping are below
1. Say I Love you…may not mean the most to you but means a hell of a lot to your kids
2. Hug them daily…you can never hug your kids enough you don’t know how long you’re on this planet for make the most of it they may outwardly think you’re weird but they love it
3. Spend quality time with your children..let them know they are important to you. Sending a text to their room is not the answer on hows your day, ring them, invite out for dinner or around for tea hello….their teens food is like money you cant have enough of mums or dads cooking. Talk to them face to face…we were created to have communication with each other so do it, skype, video call, ring them
4. Let them know they are valued
5. Trust them to stuff up. learning to fail forward is the best thing you can teach your child…how else are they going to be able to deal with life in general if you always have the answer
6. Sit down with your kids, ask them where are they heading with their futures, support them, let them know you are there
7. Dont promise your kids unless you are going to deliver…too many parents promise their kids and dont deliver you want them to have your trust…make sure you deliver on your promises otherwise you word is shyte to them
8. You are not superman, batman, the hulk…be you and let them be your child. you have permission to be a dad or a mum not a dictator
9. Your own kids are scared…they are scared on how you might react to what you may hear about them or what they are about to say to you
10. Dont over react when they tell you
11. Thank them and praise them, kids like a pat on the head
12. Get help, talk talk talk, hiding doesn’t fix anything its only our stubbornness or pride that gets in the way…
13. It takes a community to raise a child…work with your community…they’re there for you. there are some good agencies and not so good, word of mouth will let you know where to go

peace out

9 Reply
danny 28th Oct 14

Nice work Hape…....

0 Reply
Tarryne Cavell 13th Oct 14

From a slightly different perspective, what I found really intriguing in the video is the messages that kept appearing in text to show not what the parents had said, but how Jacob was interpreting what they were saying.

It’s quite plain that his parents, and I would imagine most parents, only want what they believe is best for their child and are also going about it in the best way they know how. I remember my own mother trying to encourage me to do better at school by pointing out how well my friends did. I know now that she meant it in a way that she hoped would inspire me, a sort of “See, if they can do it, you can too”, but the meaning that I took from it was “You’re not as good as they are”. Understanding that the messages that we pick up, especially around that age become the beliefs that we have about ourselves, was a huge turning point in my own self development.

There are two things that I would encourage in this sort of situation. One being better communication from the parents.  Language that is very clear in it meaning and intention that leaves less room for interpretation is really important. It would be a very different experience to be told “I’d like to help you to be more independent and earn money that’s yours” would be a very different discussion to “Why haven’t you gotten a job?”.

From the teenagers side, and anyone really, I think learning about perception is extremely important. Realizing that what we THINK someone means and what they actually mean can be two vastly different things. I think that children should be encouraged to consider other peoples perspectives and world views from early on in order to understand that how we feel or think about something, isn’t necessarily the reality of the situation.

5 Reply
Melissa 12th Oct 14

Jacob’s experience here brings back such vivid emotional memories of my teenage years.  Even though my family situation was quite different I ended up the same way; passed out drunk in the back of my parents car because none of my friends knew what to do.  Though I can’t remember the evening prior at all, I will never forget the look of shame and disappointment on my parents face the next day when I finally woke up.

The complicated thing about family is that knowing each other so well, many things can be left to go unsaid; it’s easy to fall into a rhythm of assuming -  of NOT saying anything of any importance EVER!  Compounded by the multitudes of demands upon each of the four people living under one roof, days/weeks/months can go by without actually taking a breath and saying to each other “are you ok?  How have you been?  What do really feel about this?”

Jacob seems stuck in that tricky place halfway between being a child/teenager needing support and the safe confines of a family unit and the independence that comes with adulthood.  Trying to find an ally wherever he can, his subtle attempts to reach out to his sister and step-dad are going un-noticed. 
I think Mum needs to adjust the goal-posts.  Finding employment and being accountable out of the home is a big ask when Jacob isn’t coping emotionally - someone needs to notice this first though!
Kids and young adults don’t communicate the same way year after year and as parents we need to be receptive and aware of how lines of communication may become harder to maintain. 
Jacob is seen using Facebook - though this may seem counterintuitive to some, perhaps his family can start some discussions using social media?  A message from Mum asking how lunch with his Dad went is an indirect, friendly, non-confrontational way to start a discussion.
It also seems that Jacob needs someone on ‘his team’.  Sibling relationships are tricky and Leigh and Jacob seem to be divided by their biological father.  Finding some common ground between these two would probably help both teens navigate the next few years together.

5 Reply
Leah Light 12th Oct 14

Being a parent is one of the hardest jobs in the world, and one thing that happens with the responsibility of parenthood, work, life etc is we forget how we felt as teenagers.

Jacob seems to be going throug the same thing that most 17 year olds go through. “Where do I belong” “what is my purpose”. It’s a hard faze that we all have to go through and teenage hormones make things even harder. As a parent of one teenager and one “pre teen” I know I don’t have all the answers, but one thing I do feel very confident with is our lines of communication. I truly feel the key to helping all problems comes from communication, and when Jacobs mum is trying to “help” Jacob with a job she misses the real issues that seem to be going on.  Listening to our children and actually hearing what they are saying is so important.

In my experience boys are harder to pull information from than girls, My advice to Jacobs parents would be to sit down with him and ask him what he wants? And find out what has actually been holding him back?

4 Reply
Gloria Pedro 9th Oct 14

I agree with Toni.

I was in similar situation with ex-partner and his elder son. Father of 2 teenage boys. You could say I was in Graham’s situation. Sticking up for elder son and asking my ex-partner not to be too hard on him. Kept telling ex-partner to wait and see because he will have something, but it will take time. But a father that wants to be good parent and wants the best for his sons.

His son ended up doing a mechanic course and I kept in touch with some of the tutors to get updates on how he was progressing.  Every time I saw him, I always praised him with positives because I could see he was carrying a lot on his shoulders. I even praised him for going to spend time with his biological mother. Always come back unhappy. I also had goes at my ex-partner for cursing their mother to the two boys. I asked that he addressed it to me rather than them or even to the mum but only once he managed to do that. 

My focus was to try and keep this boy in high spirits while doing this course. So I shared funny gossip, stories, purchase his favourite foods, give him some home space with just him and his mates. Needed to, just to get laughs or smiles out of him. I always made it known to him that I believed in him and I knew that he can achieve in what ever he did.  One stage there he nearly missed out on his course, so I managed to organise for one of the tutors to give him another chance.  I never shared this with my ex-partner because all that would’ve caused was a screaming match between the two and then with me.  Instead I informed his son and explained to him the situation and asked that he attends this appointment with his tutor and also informed him that I would not mention this to his dad.  He happily agreed and the assessment went well.

Today he is a qualified diesel mechanic, and very passionate about his work.  Very proud of him and I got to quote to my ex-partner- ’ I told you so’.  :)  I think a lot of positive comments and praises helps a lot with our kids today. Even if they’re looking down at the ground and act like they don’t care. They care. They understand the meaning of those positive comments. The more positives you throw at them, the higher their head raises.  Especially those that hide under their hoods. 

Sometimes it’s the best introduction medicine for kids to confide in you about something they’ve been carrying for a very long time and don’t know how to go about helping themselves. It’s gotta start somewhere and there is always a reason.

7 Reply
Holly 12th Oct 14

It seems like your ex partners son was very lucky to have you in his life Gloria!

I am also a step parent so I can relate to this situation and as Tony said, it is so important for the parent to have the right support behind them. Step parents often have the ability to bring a fresh perspective to a situation or family dynamic and can draw attention to issues or negative behavioural patterns that families may have fallen into. I focused on making sure I was supporting my partner and made myself available for him to talk to and voice his frustrations. At the same time it is equally important to support the child and develop a relationship separate of what they have with their parent. There may be issues that the child isn’t comfortable talking about with their parent so discussing with the step parent can be a constructive way to start to opening up that communication.

Its obvious that Jacob suffers from low self esteem and has little confidence in himself. It is so important to create a home environment that welcomes emotion and discussion. It might not be what we want to hear and we may disagree but this will lead to a better understanding of their emotions and why they may be acting and behaving that way. Children need to feel like they are in a safe environment to voice their opinions and concerns, this will help them build confidence which will be vital throughout their career.

Many issues that arise in families stem from miscommunication. It was obvious that there were some underlying issues that Jacob was trying to deal with but this came across like he was just lazy and couldn’t be bothered finding a job. Jacob and his mum needed to sit down and talk through these deeper issues in order to get a clearer understanding of how both of them were feeling. This could have resulted in a more productive solution and outcome for both.

Im sure many can relate to this situation. As parents we need to be patient, be ok with rejection and know that it wont last forever!

0 Reply
Cherry N 9th Oct 14

As a parent of a 17 year old teenage boy I can see a few similar issues that have been raised in this video. Every family relationship is different and unique, and I don’t profess to know all the answers, but I do my best as a parent, and try and work through situations when they arise.

With the discussions Jacob has with his mother, I thought that she wasn’t really listening to what he has to say. They were all one-sided, what she wanted him to do, go look for a job, are you getting up, what time are you seeing your dad…. If they sat down and had a discussion about what types of things he is interested in, then maybe made a list of part time jobs he could do, and even looked online or in the papers, that might have been more productive. Mum needed to let her son make the decisions about employment.

With his relationship with his biological father, I really felt for Jacob. The best thing you can spend on your children is time, and obviously Jacob’s dad doesn’t get it. Lunch isn’t 3pm, and while dad is spending time with Jacob, he is preoccupied with a phone call from his partner. This was not quality time, especially if there is no real quality conversations going on. It was just “what do you want?”.  Jacob seems to get along well with his step father, and maybe spending more time with him would be more beneficial for Jacob. People either get it or they don’t in life, and if I was a parent not living with my child or children, when I did meet up with them I would make sure that they would get my full attention. I would want to know what’s going on in their lives, and make room for them in my life - shared custody.

4 Reply
Gemma Fronda 29th Aug 14

Every teenager will face this kind of problem….employment.  On Jacob’s situation, he needs focus on which interest of work to look into. Parents can ask this at first in an encouraging tone. This shows that we are interested with what Jacob wants to achieve in life… short term goals as well as long term. Ask if he needs any support to achieve these goals. Ask his plans on how to achieve them.

Encouragement and support is what family can give. Yes there can be downfalls, but it’s not easy to be employed. We can always be there to ask his help to do small jobs for us while he is looking for one just to make sure he does not end up in the couch or bed. Through this we empower him, we show that he is needed, that he can do this and maybe along the way he will see what he wants to achieve. Easier said than done but its easier to do something than just say it.

8 Reply
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Graham McGowan

Featured character:Graham McGowan

Graham is Lisa’s 46 year old partner. Born and bred in West Auckland, he works for the AA’s breakdown service and enjoys his job.

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