Whenever I interview teens for our writing internships I ask them one important question: “If you could give one piece of advice to every parent, what would you tell them?” Interestingly, their tips tend to be quite similar—highlighting the fact that most teens and parents do in fact struggle with the same issues. Here are the top 5 tips we here from teens that they wish their parents knew:
1. Do not pretend you know everything about us
“My mom thinks I haven’t changed since I was 11. Just because I liked a certain TV show then, doesn’t mean I haven’t changed. I wish she asked me about myself more instead of assuming she knows what I am like.”—Carey, 13
As adults I think we forget how rapidly teens change their interests, friends and identity. After all, for most of us our favorite color, best friend and hair color hasn’t changed in a few years. Teens are all about experimentation and as they grow their interests change—even week to week. A common complaint I hear from teens is that they wish their parents took an interest—a continued interest in their lives beyond just their grades and that they would recognize that their interests are changing.
2. We do listen, even if we pretend we don’t
“I sometimes role my eyes at my mom and pretend I am not listening. But I do hear what she says and think about it later.” –Jeremiah, 15
It is very uncool for teens to listen to their parents. And sometimes they feel they have to pretend they are not listening. But over and over again I hear teens encourage their parents (or other parents) that their teens do listen.
3. If you treat us like kids, we will act like kids
“If my dad let me have some freedom I could prove to him that I won’t do anything stupid. But he won’t even give me the chance.” –Leslie, 14
Many teens tell us that if their parents were to put some faith in them they feel they would rise to the occasion. However, when their parents treat them like they are going to break the rules, they often do.
4. Their friends matter…a lot
“My friends are more important to me than my parents.” –Mariah, 12
This is a hard one to swallow, but when kids hit age 11 they begin to spend more time with their friends than with parents, and this can greatly increase the amount of influence their peers have. Many teens lament that parents don’t understand how important their friends are to them—their tastes, their needs and their judgments. It is important for parents to realize how important friends are to not only keep negative pressure in check, but also to show their kids they respect their good friendships.
5. We do come back
“Sometime around 19 I realized my parents weren’t so bad after all.” –Jackie, 23
If you are going through a rocky time with your teen, just know it will not last forever. If you let them know you love them, the values you instilled in them will blossom. Every teen I talk to speaks to the ups and downs in their relationships and their faith that if it is hard right now, one day it will get easier.