Teenagers nowadays lead a complex life, and with social media and rapidly changing attitudes, it has become harder and harder for teens to express themselves. In our work with teens, they have told us that they wish they could tell their parents that
#1 After all is said and done, I yearn for your love, affection and a connection with you
I am grateful for everything and I love you even though I do not always say it. Although I may not always know how to ask for it, I also need more of your time where you focus on me, and not on buying me things or doing things for me. But, just where you get to know who I really am and I get to know who you really are.
#2 I need you to be tolerant, open and respect my choices
Your tolerance, understanding and respect goes a long way. Don’t pretend to know everything about anything…especially not about me. I know that you were young too, but our times are different, so my choices are likely to be different. But I am still your child and I just need to know that you are that safe landing place I can come to when I falter or fall. That I can depend on you to love me no matter what... I do not expect you to agree with everything I do but have an open mind and be patient.
#3 I need rules and boundaries
I need limits. I'm going to be upset with them and react to them, but when you don't give me any, it makes me feel like I'm in charge. I may say that's what I want, but it really scares me. So in short, your job is to set boundaries. I need that even though I will still try to push them. But have reasonable rules and be ready to readjust them for special circumstances.
I know that consequences are an important lesson when I overstep boundaries. I may not always be happy with them, but I accept that I do need help in figuring out how to navigate this world. Knowing that there are rules and boundaries makes me feel safe and makes me feel that you care enough to put them in place, even knowing that I may get upset over it.
#4 I have a lot going on and want to share it openly without fear
Many of the young people we work with say that even though their parents expect them to be well-behaved, they have been involved in things such as alcohol, drugs etc. They would want to share with their parents:
I want you to genuinely be interested in my life. But respect my privacy.
Talk to me about sex and drugs. I want to be able to share with you that I am not a virgin. I want to be able to tell you about my boyfriend and for you to meet him and interact with him so that when I am unable to make clear decisions about my relationship, you are there to guide and assist and not enforce. I want to feel free to talk about my sexual preferences, that I actually like someone of the same sex. I need to know I can do this and that you will still love and accept me and that you will guide me on how to be true to myself in the world which feels very unsafe sometimes.
#5 Allow me to make my own mistakes
Some of our youth note that they feel there parents want them to not make mistakes at all. While this is important, they want the freedom to take the guidance from their parents but also to be allowed to make their own mistakes.
When I make mistakes, resist the urge to tell me I messed up, to criticize or to lecture. All I really need is unconditional love. Listen calmly and communicate your support. Supporting me experience the consequences of my actions and to find my own solutions will be far more effective than any lecture.