5 Things Your Teen Wishes You Knew
Dr. Patricia Nan Anderson
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Dear Mom and Dad,
I know I’m not easy to live with right now. Quite frankly, you’re not easy to live with either. Here are some clues from my end about what’s going on…
1. I need to figure things out for myself.
I’m thinking hard these days because I want to understand what I believe about politics and religion and what’s right and what’s wrong. I’m becoming a thinking person – a real adult – and to do that I’m testing a lot of ideas. Some are probably silly and I’ll move past them. But I’m not you and you can’t tell me what to think or even what to believe. I’d like to bounce ideas off you but we’ve got to be able to have civil discussions. I don’t want to argue and I don’t want you to tell me what to do.
2. My friends are important to me.
These are the people I’ll be living with all my life and I want their appreciation and respect. Some friend or other might one day become the person I decide to marry. So when you dismiss my friends and say unkind things about them, that makes me sad and angry. I know these people – they’re good people. You don’t know them and you don’t have a right to judge. So at least be polite to my friends. Show me that you care about me by being gracious to the people I care about.
3. I’m afraid of making mistakes and mistakes seem to be everywhere.
I’ll tell you right now, I’m terrified a lot of the time. I wonder how I’ll ever figure out how to have a job and make enough money to have my own place. I don’t know how I’ll be able to live on my own without you but I know that I will, in just a few years. So many of the rules of adult life are hidden from me. I don’t understand how to stay out of trouble and trouble seems sometimes to follow me around. This all makes me tense and anxious. It makes me jump to conclusions and fight back when I realize later that getting angry was a stupid thing to do. So I’m sorry. I know you’re only trying to help. I do need you.
4. When I make mistakes I need your help to fix them.
It used to be that trouble was just trouble at school or with the kids in the neighborhood. Nothing serious. Now the kinds of trouble I can get into – that kids I know have got into – are the kinds of trouble that puts people in jail or in the hospital. I already feel like I’m in over my head and when I get in trouble I feel the waters closing over me. I need your help. Please help me. Don’t turn your back on me. Even though I may have ignored you a lot lately, I really need a hand to pull me out of the deep water and get me back to safety. Be there for me, no matter what.
5. I really do love you and someday I’ll be able to tell you that again.
Mom. Dad. I love you. Right now, with all that’s going on in my life and with the friction that seems to be between us these days, I know I don’t say that enough. I do love you, though, and I want us to get along. Tell me that you love me. I need to hear it. Don’t attach any conditions – don’t tell me “I will love you if you do what I want.” Don’t extort my love by saying “if you loved me you would do as I ask.” I love you. Please love me. Please love the real me.
Thanks for listening.