02 Aug 2005, 05:51:41 PM

Reporter: Jackie Quist

After 12 years as a children's court magistrate, Barbara Holbrow has given more than her share of tongue lashings to young girls who have run off the rails.

"I believe they are confused and I put it all down to hormones they have never had to deal with before," Ms Holbrow said.

Francis and Max Bourband are struggling to understand the needs and antics of their 13-year-old daughter Becky.

"We caught her smoking and we grounded her and she said, 'no I'm off', and ran away," Mr Bourband said.

"On that occasion we knew where she ran away to and we picked her up and brought her back home," he added.

After Becky ran away a second time her parents sought help from a family counselor who helped them all deal with this difficult time.

Family therapist Benita Cohen specialises in helping families and adolescents cope with this often difficult stage. She said it can be baffling for the parents and is often baffling for the girls.

"There is a kind of emotional roller coaster many parents describe where their daughters go from being happy and calm one minute to furious and overwhelmed," Ms Cohen said.

Rahat Kauper, 14, said her priorities included friends, fashion, mobile phones, parties, privacy and boys.

"Arguing is the only way you can get your ideas to your parents, they're so old fashioned," she said.

Ms Cohen said reaching a middle ground is the key to not just surviving but enjoying your daughter's adolescence.

"I try to give suggestions for parents to not hover over their children or try to impose certain standards and boundaries all the time," she said.

"They need to let their child know they want them to grow up and be free and have space but safe at the same time," Ms Cohen added.

Other tips include remembering girls are more emotional than boys so offer support, ask questions about their feelings, be interested in their lives, discuss their fears and dreams, and give comfort in difficult times.

"It is important parents remember back to their own experience and remember for the most part they survived their teenage years and matured," Ms Cohen said.