It’s tough to be a parent these days—especially to be the parent of a teenager. Young people often come and go on their own schedules, respond with one-word answers to questions about their days, give the impression that family time is a burden, and alter their moods quicker than a chameleon changes color.
While raising an adolescent is certainly no walk in the park, seeing things from your child’s perspective can be just the insight you need to prevent WWIII.
To help us gain perspective, we asked over eighty teens to share with us the things they want their parents to know about them. Regardless of their age and gender, their responses were the same.
Here are the ten things your child wants you to understand . . .
1. I love you and appreciate you, even if I don’t always say it or show it.
“I want my parents to know how much I love them. I know we get a bad rep as being unappreciative, but we really do love and appreciate everything that you do for us.” –Teenage girl
You mean more to your child than any friend, any crush, any sibling, or any pet they will ever have. Your child cares about you, loves you—even when you discipline them—and knows that you are doing your very best. Although it may not seem like it, your child notices and is grateful for all the hard work you put into providing for them.
2. I want you to be honest with me.
“I want [my parents] to be honest with me always, even if it’s not what I want to hear.”
No one likes being lied to or deceived. If you want your teen to be honest with you, you need to be honest with them. Honesty builds trust, and trust is an essential building block in any relationship.
3. I really am listening to you, even if I pretend that I am not.
“I want [my parents] to know that even though it might not seem like anything they tell me sinks in—or it might not look like I care—I really do listen to what they say and take their advice.”
No one likes to be told what to do, especially teens. But as “uncool” as it is for teenagers to listen to the parents, they do value your opinion, and what you say matters more than you think.
4. I want a relationship with you.
“I want to spend time together, because it’s actually fun.” –Teenage boy
Yes, teens like to be on their phones, chilling with their friends, and playing games on their computers. But they also enjoy hanging out with you, value family time, and want you to take an interest in their lives.
5. I want you to respect me and my opinions.
“I would like my parents to be respectful of my opinions and where I stand on certain things. Along with the idea of respect, I would like my parents to treat me with the same amount of dignity they would treat themselves or other adults. Sometimes I feel like I am treated like my opinions don’t matter.” –Teenage girl
You are the biggest influence in your child’s life, which means that many of the opinions they have were learned from you. However, you aren’t the only influence in your child’s life. The friends they hang out with, the music they listen to, the shows they watch, and the things they read all impact their beliefs—which may not always be the same as yours. When it comes down to it, it’s not really a matter of who’s right and who’s wrong—your child just wants to be heard and feel validated.
6. Times are different.
“Teens want their parents to know that they are growing up in a different era and generation then how their parents grew up. Even what we are learning in school now is different than how it was back then; it’s more difficult.” –Teenage girl
Even though all teenagers—yourself included—deal with issues like dating, curfew, and pressure to do well in school, the circumstances for today’s young people are different. School is harder, colleges are more competitive, and social media adds a new layer of complexity to everything, especially the way teens interact with one another.
7. I need to be able to make my own mistakes.
“If you aren’t given the freedom to make your own choices in life, then you’ll never be able to form who you are as a person. With trust and freedom, we’re all bound to mess up and make mistakes sometimes. But that’s how we grow and we improve.” –Teenage girl
It’s understandable that you want to protect your teen from failure, but not giving them the space to flop robs them of developing the skills necessary to bounce back in the face of defeat. Teens are smarter than most adults and parents think, and they are capable of making sound decisions. But they will make mistakes—and when they do, they need to know that you are there for them.
8. I want your love, support, and encouragement.
“Having your parents love and appreciate you is the best feeling ever.” –Teenage boy
During their teenage years, young people experience a lot of physical changes and are faced with many tough decisions. The best thing you can give your child is your unconditional love and the support and encouragement they need to pursue their own dreams—even if those dreams are different from what you had imagined for them.
9. Sometimes I just want you to listen.
“I want parents to stop trying to turn school drama into life lessons. I want to be able to rant with them without them trying to solve the situation without me asking for advice.” –Teenage girl
Teens, like adults, find relief by simply voicing their worries and concerns. Very often, teens are not looking for a solution to their problem, just a space to share what’s on their minds. As you know, simply voicing your worries and concerns can alleviate stress. The best thing you can do is listen without interrupting and refrain from adding your own thoughts. No one likes unsolicited advice—even when it comes from a loving place.
10. I want more freedom, trust, and privacy—but I also need rules and boundaries.
“Teens want freedom; not too strict, but not too loose.” –Teenage boy
Teens push hard for independence. They want their parents to stop worrying, asking so many questions, and assuming that they are going to break the rules. But as much as your child desires more autonomy, he also wants to know the boundaries.
If you are going through a rough time with your teen, you are not alone. And as challenging as it is to communicate with and read your child right now, it won’t last forever. Your young person does love you and needs your love and support as together you navigate the stormy waters of their teenage years. Don’t give up hope: there are blue skies on the other side.
Michelle Dushensky is a versatile wordsmith with 10+ years of experience connecting with target audiences and growing brands through content creation, strategic marketing, copywriting, editing, and social media efforts. She has a bachelor of journalism from the University of Missouri and is passionate about Signal Hill’s mission to help young people recognize their true value and the true value of others.