The relationship between a parent and their teen is complicated to say the least. Parents are the roommates we don’t get to choose yet are paired up with for the first 18 years of our lives. Granted, we don’t have much to say for the first few years and they do all the work, cleaning, and cooking so that’s a pretty good deal. However, as we get older and begin to grow into small humans we begin to have certain expectations for these roommates of ours.
We’ve gotten used to being taken care of but begin to desire more autonomy. Conflicted expectations can arise. Take care of me, but leave me alone when I don’t feel like talking to you. Keep me safe, but allow me to make my own choices and take the risks I want. Support me, but let me go my own direction and don’t pressure me. Then we consider the position of the parent. I want what’s best for my child. I want to protect them. I want to provide effective guidance, establish expectations to keep them well rounded, on track for success, and to be a good person. But do these things mean the same to a parent as they do to their teen? What happens when one’s thoughts on an issue don’t align with the other’s? We may find ourselves growing frustrated and thinking, Wow! I really wish my parents would…
- Listen to Me
- Respect Me
- Take More Interest In Me
- Give Me More Privacy
- Accept Me For Who I Am
- Be Less Involved in My Life
- Not Try to Be My Best Friend
- Be Proud of Me
- Not Have Such High Expectations of Me
- Forgive Me
- Talk to Me
- Believe in Me
- Trust Me
- Ask Me About Myself
- Understand Me
- Recognize My Accomplishments
What Are Teens Looking For From Their Parents?
Every teen’s relationship and experience with their parents is different, which is why so many variations on, I wish my parents would, are offered. There is no one size fits all to explain the parent/teen dynamic. Each has it’s own unique strengths and struggles. What is evident is that these “wishes” come down to what teens would like more or less of from their parents.
The statement itself, I Wish My Parents Would, implies expectations teens have that are not being met. Things they want from their parents but feel they are not receiving. Something to consider is that at times what bothers teens about their parents can only be explained as a general distain, “They drive me crazy!” or “they’re so annoying!” Teens can grow irritated with their parents but not actually be able to explain why. The hope of the above examples, and this article, is that it may help teens to identify what is at the root of what they’re looking for from parents, what it is they would like to be different, and how to go about achieving that change. Of course, it’s not that simple. There isn’t a set formula for fixing any strained relationship, however, the first step is identifying the problem.
In Addition, it may be difficult as a teen to understand that parents are not perfect and don’t have all the answers. Nor are they equipped with the innate ability to always know exactly the right way to act, handle situations, or what to say to their child. In reality, parents are just people. Grown versions of teenagers that are imperfect, fallible, and unsure of themselves at times. Often just doing their best and, in their own way, trying to act in their child’s best interest based on their beliefs of what will provide them with the greatest chance of success and happiness. Another assumption can be that parents are mind readers, which would be very impressive! But alas, this is not the case. Therefore, there is one word that can be the first step to attaining a desired change…..COMMUNICATION. It’s a fabulous word that can achieve fabulous things when it is utilized. If it’s not used, that’s when the trouble begins. When frustrations grow between parent and child and effective communication has not been established, the “guessing game” begins. A teen is clearly upset or distant but refusing to explain what’s going on. The parent is left to guess and may be way off the mark. It is understandable that it can be very difficult to explain to a parent how their actions are vexing. It can be tempting to want to withdraw and avoid interactions completely and give up hope that common ground can be established. This echoes back to the conflict teens encounter when coming of age under the same roof as their parents. Part of them may still feel that these individuals, who raised them for over a decade of their lives, should know exactly how to care for them without any input on the child’s end. That’s how it was done up until now, why should that change? Why should I have to explain myself now? Yet the reality is that part of the maturation process is learning how to express yourselves, your needs, and do your part to bridge the gap of misunderstanding.
How Can Teens Work to Change a Situation With Their Parents?
The following identifies “wishes” that teens have for their parents and offers some information on ways to respond to, address, or handle the underlying issue.
When You Want to Be Heard/Trusted
Feeling like what you say or believe is not adequately taken into consideration can be infuriating, especially when the intended recipient is a parent. Not feeling heard can potentially result in a deeper fracture in an already damaged relationship. If you’re not feeling like your parents are listening to you perhaps try reframing what you’re attempting to get across. Consider the circumstances when you’re trying to tell your parents something, is it usually once the situation has already escalated and involves yelling? At this point it’s likely that neither party is really hearing the other. Consider bringing up the topic before it’s at the height of a current disagreement. For example, if you and your parent have a pattern of fighting on Friday afternoons because you tell them your weekend plans and they immediately begin objecting, try talking about it earlier in the week. Introduce what you would like to do before time becomes a crucial factor. This way you are more able to discuss any potential objections your parents might have without it resulting in a full-blown altercation. This is also a time to discuss any hesitations your parent might have about your plans. If there is an issue of trust, ask your parent what their fear is, giving you the opportunity to explain why it may or may not be a warranted concern.
When You Want Space
Wanting to be able to live your life without feeling like your parents are questioning your every move is a valid request. While some degree of supervision is to be expected from a parent, even when you’ve reach high school, the phenomenon of “helicopter” parenting is not a welcomed or healthy approach. In fact, it is likely to result in a teen wanting to push a parent away completely out of frustration and feeling like their personal space is violated. Establishing boundaries is critical. Make it known what level of involvement you are comfortable with your parent having in your life. When you feel that line is crossed say something as soon as possible. The longer you go without addressing the matter the more irritability might build up and ultimately erupt with an unpleasant outcome. It might also be an effective gesture to express to your parent the ways in which you DO enjoy their input and involvement in your life, being sure they know that sometimes you still need them but that certain matters have become uncomfortable to share.
When You Want Acknowledgment
For some teens, it may feel like they can never truly please their parents. , that whatever they do is never quite good enough and that they could always have done better. The list of areas where our success can be measured in high school is abundant. Academically, socially, extra-curricular, athletics, exams, getting into college, it can seem to be never-ending expectations that can never quite be fulfilled. It may feel like once we tackle one of these realms it’s quickly over-shadowed by the next expectation. When it starts to feel like no matter what we do we’ll never be good enough, resentment and hopelessness can come about. Perhaps establish with your parents what is most important to you and what you feel you can realistically achieve and ask for their support in this focus. Ask them for an understanding that feeling like you need to do it all is overwhelming. Remember at the end of the day the most important person to please is yourself
When You Want Acceptance
We all want to be accepted for who we are, just as we are, without having to modify what feels natural or the things that matter the most to us. High school is a time of self-discovery, development, and an emergence as multi-faceted, complex beings. We’re on a strange journey that isn’t always easy to understand. What can make it 1000x more difficult, however, is when we don’t feel we can be transparent about our true selves. Revealing our truth is made easier by sharing it with the people who are important to us, but what if we don’t feel safe doing so?
Fearing the disapproval of those close to you, especially your parents, can be stifling and oppressive. The potential for rejection may keep you from being honest with them, which is never a good foundation for any relationship. As uncomfortable as it may be, asking a parent directly for the exact form of acceptance you’re looking for is the most effective. Making it clear that this is not an area that is up for discussion but something integral to who you are and that the best thing for your relationship is to be accepted for that.
How Can Teens Ask for What They Want?
A specific word in the title of this issue is very important to consider; wish. A wish is a desire or hope for something to happen. And while wishing is a good way to identify an outcome we might want, it’s not going to manifest results on its own. That takes action. When we want something there are two things we can do, ask for it or work towards it. In the case of wanting a shift in a relationship the best thing we can do is ask for that change, then be willing to work for it. Be heard. It is so often the case that parents will say, “ I had no idea he/she felt that way. I never knew.” If you don’t like the way things are let it be known and give yourself the chance for change. Again, communication is your greatest tool. Once this communication channel has been opened, the work can begin to create the desired outcome in a situation. Don’t be discouraged when this communication doesn’t happen overnight, it takes time an effort to build good communication in any relationship. There are some valuable techniques available that can help you and your parent improve communication.Communication Techniques to Use With Parents:
- Share honestly and openly
- Be proactive, address issues before they have escalated
- Ask questions
- LISTEN actively to responses to better understand the other persons position
- Provide helpful feedback
- Be direct about desired results
- Create a plan with your parent regarding how you will carry out changes in communication going forward
- Take ownership for your part in the current problem and in making change happen
- If all else fails, write a letter. If conversation never seems to go well, get your thoughts out in the written word. Tell your parents everything you’ve ever wanted to say. Even if you don’t end up giving them the letter it’s valuable to formulate your thoughts then read over and consider them. It may give you a different perspective as well.
If you have asked for what you’re wanting/needing but still not getting it from your parents there are a few options to explore. Using a third party resource like a counselor or family psychologist to intervene can be helpful. If the issue has very evidently become an impasse that you don’t feel can be improved or changed, it may be necessary to look to other sources to receive what you are not getting from your parents. If it’s acceptance for who you are or want to be, focus on the friends and people in your life who embrace you for who you are. It doesn’t mean it won’t hurt not to receive this from your parents, or that it won’t happen eventually, but for the time being it is important to have your needs met in regards to being able to be true and loving towards yourself.
Additionally, not to sound trite, but if there is something you wish your parents knew but can’t find the way to tell them, hand them this issue of Reality Check. In fact, encourage them to read every issue of Reality Check. Place it conspicuously in the house where they might find it, whatever you have to do. There is no better resource available for parents to obtain a glimpse into what teens are actually thinking, feeling, experiencing, and looking for in regards to support. What can’t be said directly from one child to their parent can be expressed through the voice of their peers who are facing similar struggles.
There is rarely a smooth path to be taken in regards to a teen’s relationship with their parents. That isn’t to say that some teens don’t have an excellent relationship with their parents. However, even great relationships take work to maintain, and these tips can be great preventative/maintenance tools as well. Overall, the relationship you have with your parent is one of the most important that you will have in your life. It is worth working on because a good relationship with a parent can last a lifetime. And although it may not seem like it at times, it is difficult to find anyone in this world with the potential to love you as unconditionally and as deeply as your parents.