Each generation faces a new set of challenges, and each generation continues to complain, “Parents just don’t get it.” Here’s what today’s teens wish you understood.
Working under stress is what will make me get my homework done. Even though I procrastinate a lot, I always turn in my assignments on time. Although it seems productive, nagging me doesn’t make me want to work. Allowing me to make my own decisions about homework actually makes me more motivated to do it.
Savannah, 16, Portland, Oregon
I want my parents to know that I am an individual. I don’t really think they take me for myself, because sometimes they only let me be what they want me to be. If I could tell them anything, it would be to just let me go. I understand where they’re coming from because I am their kid, but its just like, “Loosen the leash there, Bub.” Although, to be honest, if they weren’t being kind of constricting, I don’t think I would be the same person because they make me aware of what I should and should not do.
Bryan, 15, Riverside, California
I wish that they knew exactly how hard it is to be a righteous, unshakable LDS kid today. They’ve told me stories about when they were teenagers, and it’s amazing that kids who did drugs, drank, watched porn, and cheated were in the minority. All those things were quite common practices at my high school, and while they were still behaviors that were frowned on, they were also accepted as “the norm” and not surprising.
I also wish my parents knew that even if I roll my eyes at their humor and run out the door every night to hang out with someone besides the family, they’re still in the back of my mind. I enjoy spending time with people I can relate to because of their age, but I won’t be friends with them forever. I’ll move away for college and leave again sometime after that, and I’ll fall out of touch with hundreds of friends. But I’ll always have the same family. I could leave the country for ten years and still guarantee I’d have someone waiting at the airport for me when I got back; they’d be there. Because even though I don’t spend the majority of my time with them, they love me, they’re my family, and we’re gonna be together forever. I need them to be my parents, not my friends, because if they’re the latter, where can I go when I have a problem I can’t talk about with my friends?
Claire, 18, Albuquerque, New Mexico
My parents are everything to me. However, times have changed since they were my age. Their parents would never have had to tell them, “Put the iPod away and start singing the hymn!” or “Please get off Facebook and come join us for Family Home Evening.” Sometimes I wish my parents knew that my social life is very important to me and technology is very big in my life. Sure, I will agree that it’s a good idea to unplug yourself from the world once in a while. My family is just as important to me as anything else in my life. Even though sometimes I may be too busy with friends or technology, I wish my parents knew that they are more important to me than anything! I wish they would realize how much I truly love them, even though it’s not always easy to express it.
Jessica, 15, McMinnville, Oregon
I wish my parents knew how much I care about them. I hardly ever express heartfelt appreciation towards them, not because I don’t care or because the appreciation isn’t due, but simply because I am unable to properly express my feelings. It’s almost like they do so much for me that I’ll never be able to pay them back. Because I know that appreciatory phrases will never suffice, I don’t say them. I know that words will never make up for all that my parents do for me. I feel so uncomfortable that I just don’t say anything. I wish I could tell my parents I love them without feeling awkward inside. I know I love them, I just can’t express it. It has come to the point where saying I love you would be a surprise and therefore the phrase would draw attention. Usually attention is a good thing, but when the attention is on something awkward it’s a nightmare. But inside I want them to know that even though I don’t act like it all the time, I really do care about them.
Zach, 17, Hawaii
Sometimes I do things that are stupid or wrong, and I realize they are stupid or wrong, and there is nothing anybody can do about it. Lecturing me is not going to help. It’s just going to make me bored. And annoyed. And then you will get mad at me for making a snarky comment because I’m annoyed. Then one thing leads to another and next thing I know, I’m grounded. Because of a stupid decision that you felt the need to lecture me on.
Sophie, 15, Auckland, New Zealand
I would like for my parents to find things besides my mistakes to be interesting. To take part in my excitement that I passed the high school exit exam and got a B- on a math test. I’d like them to take some part in my life, besides the parts where I am wrong. Being trusted may go too far but being believed isn’t. Yes, I have lied and probably will later on, but not about everything. I can be believed, but what would make it easier would be for them to actually hear me out. I want them to listen to what I have to say. Whether it’s an opinion or a thought--even if it’s a lie. I would also like it if I didn’t have to change who I am for them, to make them happy, while I’m left in the dust miserable and hating.
Jennifer, 14, Moreno Valley, California
I am grateful for all the principles you teach me. Even when I complain about them, I know that all the extra work I receive from you will help me spiritually, intellectually, or physically.
Levi, 15, Port-au-Prince, Haiti
I wish my parents knew more about me. Sometimes I’ll be sitting in the car and my parents will ask about my day. I’ll talk to them, but I will not tell them about everything. I won’t tell them about my friends, boys, or problems at school because I know how they will react—and it is the same every time. Getting the same response every time is really irritating to me. So instead of telling my parents about everything, I just think, “Why bother?” Because of my attitude, my parents see me as just another distant teenager, and it seems they don’t trust me as much. Sometimes I do try to talk to my parents, but it seems like they don’t even try to relate to me. I know they were kids once, and I’m sure they had some of the same experiences that I am having as a teenager.
I even think I share some of the same dreams for the future that they had. But my parents never talk about their childhood, and they make it very difficult for me to find any kind of common ground with them. I also find it frustrating sometimes that what my parents want for me is not what I always want for myself. I know my parents only want the best for me, but sometimes I want to choose for myself (as long as I never abuse my agency). I want to show my parents that when I can choose for myself I will make the right choice.
Emma, 15, Verdale, Washington
My parents may think that I don’t appreciate them, when in reality I’m only frustrated by the phrasing of the question. Just the way they ask me sometimes makes me not even want to say anything, so I then in turn give them a grunt. The funny thing is I really do want to talk to them, but I just don’t know how to, and I don’t want to explain to them the reasoning for why I’m into the things I’m into and why I think certain things are funny. I just don’t think they’d understand. So the one thing I’d want my parents to know is that I’m trying to communicate, but it usually just comes out in the wrong way.
Jake, 18, Yorba Linda, California
I wish my parents knew how detailed the drama really is. Sometimes when I’m stressed and crying and I say I don’t know why, it’s just because friends can be so annoying! But maybe they are the only friends you have at that school, and you can’t be all lonely because then it just makes it worse! I do share all my feelings with them, but sometimes it is worse than I say, and that can be hard.
Mary, 12, Orem, Utah
I want my parents to know that I am ignorant about a lot of things, and in order to learn I need them to show me how to do things—at least once. My parents act like I should already know that when I put a package of popcorn in the microwave for five minutes (like the package instructs) it will burn. My question is: How am I supposed to know that popcorn is best cooked for two minutes and not five if I am never taught? I don’t understand how I am supposed to automatically know how to fill out financial aid papers, cook dinner, or learn how to wash their dirty clothes, and so do their kids. I’ve heard stories of kids who go to college and don’t know how to clean and cook. I’ve also heard adults question why kids don’t take advantage of opportunities like scholarships. I would guess that kids don’t know how to cook and don’t apply for more scholarships simply because they don’t know how, not because they lack the desire.
Maria, 17, Verdale, Washington