Parents/Guardians: “Those who raise or facilitate the upbringing of a child from birth to independent adulthood.” (Healthy Place, 2019).
My parents: “Those incredible humans I love but are always in my hair and can’t seem to understand me most of the time.”
It’s incredible how this one word means different things from different perspectives. The question of why parents can’t seem to understand their teenagers has and will still be answered in different ways over time.
This article is also an answer, a personal answer to the question of why I don’t always share what’s on my mind with my parents and what they can do to find out.
Why I don’t always share what’s on my mind with my parents:
I feel like they will judge me: Everyone, parents included, can relate to this feeling of not wanting to open up or share thoughts, opinions, or experiences with someone else for fear of being condemned or looked down upon for making certain choices or thinking in a certain way. Teenagers are no different; in fact, they are even more sensitive to this feeling. Most times, all it takes is one wrong look, word, or action to make them retract into their shells. Parents might want to try watching out for how they react to things their teenagers say or do. They should also try to create an open and safe environment free from any form of prejudice.
They wouldn’t listen or try to understand: Teenagers like everyone else yearn to be heard. More often than not, all they need are just listening ears. Ears that don’t talk back, interrupt, or change the subject but just listen. Teenagers go through a lot: physical changes, school workload, the increasing pressure to be socially acceptable. All these are quite a lot for a growing mind and body. They have questions and opinions. They want to say the big things and the little things. And they need ears that listen like it all matters. It does to them. Empathy is vital for parents. While the times have changed, we were all once teenagers. “How would you have wanted to be heard and understood then?” Your children feel the same way or maybe even more. Just listen, don’t try to make sense of it at first because it might not make sense. It is their thoughts, not yours. In trying to understand, listening, really listening is the first step you need to take.
Their attitude towards me would change, I’ll be blacklisted: That moment when someone close, a friend, or even family begins to look at you differently because of something you’ve done. That is probably the worst feeling in the world. People make mistakes. Teenagers are no different. They are people too. They are even more prone to making mistakes because of their age. The fear of being judged for one evil, neglecting all the good they have done or can do, can make your teenager hide from you. They want to be loved by you. They won’t open up if they feel doing so will make your love for them wane or change. Parents should try taking a cue from the prodigal son’s father. Consciously show them that your love for them is eternal, their faults inclusive. This will give them the security to always open up.
They will keep probing further: We have all met those people. Those one-of-a-kind individuals, okay in all other aspects, except that they don’t just know when to stop. They keep probing, pressing, pushing, poking you. Till you are just about raving mad and explode in their faces. Don’t you just find them repulsive (putting it mildly) at times? Well, guess what? I bet you didn’t know? News flash, people! Teenagers feel the same way! The fact that they opened up about something doesn’t mean they are comfortable talking about it all the time or even ever again. Sometimes good healthy space is all they need. And you need to give that to them as a parent or risk pushing them further and further away. The confidence to open up doesn’t come easily. They gathered it up the first time. Leave it at that. Just let them know you are always available to listen if they want to try again. They will, eventually.
They might blow it out of proportion: “Why are you making a mountain out of a molehill?” We have either asked, thought of asking, or been asked this question in the course of our existence on this planet. Some people are just gifted, too gifted if you ask me, in the art of blowing things out of proportion. Parents, you might want to take a deep breath next time before you ask that question or give that verdict. You might just end up hitting some delicate nerves that just wouldn’t open up to you next time.
They’ll be too religious about it: “He went all Jesus on me”. Dear parents, while most of us do believe in the existence of a higher power, we also like to share our problems and issues with experienced humans like us (therapists or counsellors). At times only humans can truly understand and relate to the realities of other humans. When we talk about our problems, we don’t always want to hear “take it to Jesus” or “have you prayed about it?” Sometimes we just want to hear your human view or opinion about it. If all you do is tell us to take it to Jesus, we’ll find it difficult and even unnecessary to discuss or share our life issues with you.
I might burden them: We all know that feeling all right. That feeling of not wanting to reach out or talk to someone about our problems and needs because we feel they already have more than enough on their plate. Adding one piece of chicken might just be all it takes to shatter their plate or make the food spillover. Teenagers are even more sensitive to not wanting to be a burden. And tend to stay away, keep to themselves, or try to solve it on their own when they feel like their issues might weigh you down. To mitigate this feeling, parents might want to create a bond with their teenagers with the simple message of “no matter how busy I am or whatever I am passing through, I will always have time for you because your matter (whatever it is) matters to me.”
I genuinely do not know how to express myself at times: As unbelievable as this might sound, sometimes it just isn’t you (parents), but us (teenagers). The teen age is a very complex age for any teenager. There is a lot of self-discovery going on. There is also the question of how to pass the message we want to pass across and when? How do I communicate effectively? How best will I be heard? These, among many other things constantly float around a teenager’s mind. At times we just don’t know how to say the things we want to say. And this is perfectly normal. To make things easier for us, parents can try to create a safe and open environment where we can freely express ourselves when we finally find how and are ready to.
The journey of understanding teenagers is a never-ending one. Sometimes you think you’ve got it, and other times you don’t have a clue on how to read their coded minds. From my perspective, as a teenager, these are just some of the reasons I don’t always share what’s #OnMyMind with my parents. I hope this has helped you decipher a bit of our code.
Healthyplace.com. (2019). What Is Parenting? What Does It Mean to Be a Parent? | HealthyPlace. [online] Available at: https://www.healthyplace.com/parenting/parenting-skills-strategies/what-is-parenting-what-does-it-mean-to-be-a-parent [Accessed 14 Sep. 2021].