#80 Teens Tips to Parents
#80 Family Matters
In These Times by Dr. Jody Kussin, July 31, 2020
I took a totally non-scientific poll of the many adolescents, tweens, and teens I ‘see’ in my weekly therapy sessions. I have major respect for these young Gen Z folk, and feel confident that at the end of the day, they will surpass our current generations and will be able to get the world ‘back’ while also establishing some permanence in the fields of humor, whimsy, and plain old fashioned fun.
I asked them, “WHAT SHOULD PARENTS KNOW IN THESE TIMES?”
They had many suggestions, of which many are quite on the mark. (I changed genders and details of each of these and they are a conglomerate of many kids to protect the privacy of the speakers.)
“Please remind our parents that we know we are NOT Anne Frank. We are not being rounded up and incarcerated in Manzana. We are not being sold as slaves nor are we being sex trafficked. And we know the difference. Our world views are probably larger than you’d think.
So, when we whine and carry on about being trapped:
1- Do not remind us we are not in Darfur. Perspective, not helpful. We know. We still wanna whine.
2- Do not join in and tell us how horrible this is for YOU. Honestly, in that moment, we do not care if it is hard for you. We are whining about how hard it is for US.
3- Do not offer some lame activity, like, ‘I know honey, let’s play BOGGLE tonight.’ Do not do NOT put out one more jigsaw puzzle. Just, please, do not.
4- Finally, do not offer platitudes about how ‘this too shall pass.’ Yes, we know. What we’d prefer is a nice, ‘Oh, dear, so so sorry about this. Yes, it sucks.’ And then please please please, PLEASE - walk away and give us a BIT OF PRIVACY for goodness sake!”
Smart kid, I’d say. Then there is the one who told me:
“I wish my parents would be better at both being sympathetic about my friend drama and then not overly interested in my friend drama. It’s my drama. They should stick to their own friend drama. You don’t see me getting all up in that business, now do ya?”
Granted, this is a hard request for us parents. We think ‘So, you want your cake and eat it too!??!’ And the answer is, ‘yes, we do, thanks much.’
Then there’s a lovely 17-year old who told me:
“My mom needs to back off a bit. Now that we are together, like, ALL THE TIME, she needs to quit constantly asking if I’ve finished my summer reading, written all my essays for college applications, called grandma, written out a gratitude list, and cleaned out my closet.
Honestly, it’s enough. I now she loves me and cares about me, but…. I’m 17! I will either do this stuff (which most likely I will – I mean, in the past, it’s not like I did NOT complete summer reading) or I will not, in which case, bad on me. She should live her life and let me live my mine.”
Actually, that’s probably the main theme – teen to parent – “Live your life, let me live mine.” (Except, also, “Can you pick up that great color purple so I can color my hair before school starts?!”) And here is a good one from a 14-year old boy.
“I’d like my dad to know that I am not my sister or my brother. I’m not a jock. I’m not a whiz kid. I’m fine being me, but, both lower the bar and raise it and encourage me to be the best me, not a knock of them. My feeling is that when life was normal, no one was staring at me for so many hours per day, adding up how I’m not good enough. But now that we are ALWAYS together – all bet’s off. You have too much free time on your hand. Maybe YOU should start jogging, dad, because honestly, I don’t see that in my future, no matter how many times you mention it.”
On the mark, I’d say. And how about this:
“I like that you are interested in my life mom/dad, but please be more interested in your life than in mine. I like that you like to problem solve for me, but please just be a good listener, nod your head, and go back to solving your problems, not mine. If we don’t have prom, and I want to make prom in the backyard, I will figure it out with my friends. We love your support and help at some point, but this is for us to do. Not you. You can go back to figuring out taxes, and if we can afford college still, and where we will all be a year from now. Please, do not board my roller coaster, even if it’s tempting. This is my ride. With all due respect, find your own.”
And also, I like this one:
“Parents, take note – not everything in my life is COVID related. I have lots of other stuff going on, so let’s change up the topic of conversation every now and then, ok?”
Very bright, loving teens, struggling with their own stuff, attempting to be respectful on a good day and to fly below the radar on another day - but, on almost every day, they have lots to say!
When asked by me “Can you tell this to your mom or dad?” the answer is pretty much always, ‘no way. It will hurt her feelings, make her more anxious, and start a fight of some sorts. I just want him to keep his anxiety to himself. I don’t want to freak them out. It’s better to keep quiet and just work around them.”
Perhaps in some instances these kids are right, and it’s best to not say everything you think or feel. On the other hand, I know parents, and I know they are trying hard and want to be the best they can, for each of their children. Perhaps a little bit of getting the teens to speak up will help?
And if not, here’s a note from me, one parent to another – it’s not personal – it’s parenting.
Hold onto your adult support system, because the road ahead is going to continue to be quite bumpy!