Teen takeover: What I wish my parents knew

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Originally printed in the pages of Simply Family Magazine’s October 2017 issue. Never miss an issue, check out SFM’s digital editions, here

As our children get older, maintaining open doors of communication with them requires some finesse, and like all other areas of parenting has to be tailored to the specific kid. For example, as we’ve entered the tween years in my household, I’ve learned that the perfect storm of communicating with our girl more often than not happens at bedtime, typically as I’ve reached the door. If I’m patient, just about anything I’ve been wondering about will find its way out then. There are times when the inner-workings of our children’s lives seem like some elaborate mystery; coupled with those oh so charming moments when it feels like every communication attempt we make is a misstep. I’m sure we’ve all wondered what it is that our teens most want us to know, but maybe don’t know how to tell us. We were able to get a peek behind the curtain when we checked in with English teachers at Billings high schools and asked them to connect us with teenagers who would feel comfortable answering this question:

I wish my parents knew…

My parents love me unconditionally. And I wish they knew that they are loved in return by their kids, with just as much enthusiasm. Sometimes I think that parents get so lost in showering their children in parental reassurances of love and being a safe harbor that they forget we love them in return with just as much dedication. As teenagers, most of us have only arrived at where we are in our lives with the guiding hands of our parents. I was lucky, and the shift in the relationship between my parents and I went from more than simply Parent and Child, but a relationship that was built on friendship as well as familial ties. This subtle shift in the dynamic of the relationship has been my solid ground in so many situations. We all make mistakes and being able to ask your mom or dad as a friend who has lived through the same mistake is immeasurably valuable. The advice your mom gives you isn’t the same as the advice your friend would give you. In some cases, the differing views are immensely helpful. I also wish my parents understood that laughter and smiling are the basis of a good day. I think that simple fact can get lost in our hectic lives, which is a rather tragic thing. That and the thought that even though school can be hard, learning life lessons is much harder. It is appreciated beyond belief when we have the support to get us through the tough lessons, but also the freedom to live and learn all we can. -Elise  

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Many, if not all, parents like to use the phrase, “I was a teenager once too, you know,” and while this is true, a lot has changed since they were teens. It may not seem that long ago to them, but most parents of high school students graduated at least 20+ years ago. The problems that they once had are not the same ones teenagers have today. So I wish my parents knew that so much has changed since they were my age. My parents are excellent advice givers and usually, know what to say to make me feel better about a situation. However, they are guilty of using the dreaded “I was a teenager once too you know.” Technology, especially, has changed the problems that teens have. Social media is how everyone communicates now. Thankfully my parents are getting better at understanding this, thus can give better advice when a problem arises. Hopefully, as technology and the way we communicate as a whole continues to improve, parents will keep in mind that the conflicts they encountered are similar but not the same as teens’ today. The problems parents encountered with peers were face-to-face. Today those problems might be face-to-face but are more often online. Online, people can hide behind a username, and it’s more difficult to resolve conflict. Most parents are, hopefully, aware of this fact and can then offer their help. Overall my parents are getting much better at realizing that there is a difference between them as teenagers, and me and my sister as teenagers now. The phrase “I was a teenager once too you know” is used less in my house as my parents gain a better understanding of this. –Brenna

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I Need You More than You Know (but we both know I can’t admit that)

In rolls senior year, and I get it- we’re all growing more nostalgic by the day. Senior pictures are taken, my last first day comes and goes. Big choices are on my horizon, but with those choices come changes that we have simultaneously anticipated and dreaded. It’s as if I’ve been learning how to spread my wings for the last few years, but now I’m finally figuring out how this whole “flying” thing works on my own. You both watch patiently from the ground with arms wide open in case I fall, and you think I don’t know about all of the safety nets that you’ve prepared for me. But each “I love you” adds courage for the leap; every single “Drive safe” and “Be home by 11” has prepared me for the beginning of the rest of my life.

But Mom and Dad, none of it has prepared me for what leaving you will feel like. You think I’m just dying to get out of the house, but my brave face melts away when I imagine a future where there is distance between us. Please know that you two have been the best roommates that I didn’t get to choose. When you tell me that you are proud of me, I find myself wanting to tell you that I am a reflection of the people who love me most. Dad, you have made me strong enough to stand tall. Mom, you have made me brave enough to jump without the fear of falling. So, when it comes time for me to finally leave the nest, understand that I am flying on wings given to me by the two of you. -Veronica

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