A Letter to a Teenager

letter writing envelopeHow are you? I hope you’re doing well. If not, most things will get better. Whatever problems you have might not go away, but as you get older, you will gain more tools to deal with the stuff that stinks. This means that even the worst stuff is likely to become tolerable and manageable.

How are things between you and your parents? By now you have probably figured out that your parents are human beings with faults and flaws. When you were little, they probably had all (or many) of the answers. If you were fortunate, they fulfilled most of your needs. Now your needs have changed.

Do you feel like your parents don’t get you? Do you find their long speeches and their answers to your dilemmas irrelevant, annoying or even suffocating? Do you feel like they overreact?

You might be right. They don’t get some or much of what you do. So they react out of love and fear. A parent’s first instinct is to protect. Sometimes that instinct kicks in too often or too soon.

Sometimes they react because they see dangers ahead. Even unrealistic dangers often seem real to a parent. Love can do that to a person. Other times they mess up and react for no reason. Fear can have that effect on you. Who has to pay the price for this? You do.

You see, to them, your life seems like a roller coaster. Imagine standing on the ground watching you on that ride with very little control of the outcome.  Do you hear your mom yelling as you zoom by? It’s her way of giving herself a good grade as a parent. She feels she is doing something for you. You probably feel she is doing something to you.

To a parent, advice is the magic dust needed to protect you in life. Each time you run out the door, you get a booster dusting to help protect you from evil and danger. Each time parents manage to hit you with the stuff their worry meters go down.

If you find yourself growing angrier the more your parents lecture, here’s how you can minimize nagging: Prove to them that you absorbed and remembered what they told you. Write down what they say. Post the piece of paper where they can see it. Next time they repeat themselves, point to the piece of paper to let them know that you did retain the information. You don’t have to say much. You don’t have to fully agree with them. They need to know that their message reached you.  Once they know this, both your lives will be so much easier.

Slowly, as you move towards adulthood, your parents will become accustomed to the idea of letting go. You can help them letting go by showing them that you’re treating yourself with dignity.

Your brain is not fully developed until you’re in your mid twenties, so be patient with yourself. Show your parents that you love yourself enough to want what is best for you. Only you know exactly what this entails. It’s easier for a parent to let go of a child who knows what it means to value oneself.

People always say to treat others the way you like to be treated. I suggest that you treat yourself the way you want others to treat you as well. You deserve it. It’s easy to become overly self critical at your age. Not only do you feel like you have to live up to your own expectations. You probably hear your parents’ voices in your head too each time you make a mistake.

If you’re lucky, one day you might feel like your parents get you. One day they might feel like you finally captured the magic dust they constantly tossed in spades your way. You are probably both right.