Last month my daughter wrote in TeenTalk about what teens wish their parents knew. It was fascinating insight from a very introspective teen that sparked lots of conversation in our extended family and from many friends who also have teens. What Madison wrote gave me pause, made me think, and provided a new perspective. It also made me think: What do we as parents wish our teens knew? My three children are my world, and I love them more than anything. Their health, safety, and well-being are my top priority, but let’s be honest — this parenting thing is tough, and it doesn’t get any easier as they get older. We are often focused on their needs but rarely communicate our needs. So here are three things I wish my teens knew about what parents need:
Time is precious, and when your child hits high school it starts to really fly by. Just when college and adulthood seem like they are right around the corner, you as teens developmentally start to pull away from us, often spending more time in your room or with friends — we get it, it’s normal. You need us less for your basic needs, but we feel the pressure of time and want to be with you. We don’t need a lot, and we will take anything we can get. Whether it is running a few errands or popping up when we come sit on your bed to ask about your day, we want to be part of your life and hope you let us in. We want to hear about your day, listen to you vent, and your laugh never gets old. It doesn’t always have to be a big, deep conversation, just time together.
Just when we think we have this parenting thing down we are thrown a curveball. Please know we are learning with you, and we aren’t perfect. As much as we want to understand you and all that you are going through, we need you to try to understand us also. We are doing the best we can and only have your best interests in mind. We love you so much but understand sometimes that love looks like tough love with consequences, but it is always unconditional love. This is new to us, and we acknowledge that we have and will continue to make mistakes.
If it seems like we are toughest on the oldest and the youngest can do anything, remember, all kids are different so we may parent each of you a little differently, but it doesn’t mean we love you any less.
You are getting older and will eventually be on your own. With each year we give you more freedom, but we also expect more. You are no longer little, and you are more than capable of making your own breakfast, packing lunch, and helping with the dishes. If you can drive, ask if you can help with any errands for us. Nothing makes us happier than coming home from a long day and realizing you have done something around the house without us asking.
We also need you to be responsible for your own things and take ownership when you lose something. It is not fun, but it is part of growing up, and we want you to be prepared and ready to be an independent adult.
We expect a lot, but we also are aware that you have a lot on your plate, so know that it still brings us joy to help with a load of laundry or make your favorite dinner after a hard week. We give unconditionally, but it is nice to be appreciated. If we go out of our way to do something special or change our plans to drive you and your friends, acknowledge that with a sincere thank you. There is a lot we do that is neither required nor expected but we do it because we love you, so acknowledging that goes a long way.
Time is fleeting; we all feel it. I know there will be a day when I miss the hectic schedules, coordinating rides, and stressful nights watching the clock until you walk safely in the door. So, for now, I am going to enjoy every second I get with you, while trying to teach you everything you need to know. The more patient and understanding we can be with each other the better. My hope is that the roller coaster ride of these teen years bring us closer together and ultimately strengthen our bond.
Liz Farrell is the mother of three children and the founder of TechTalks, a consulting group to help schools and families have productive conversations around social media and technology. Email: [email protected]