Many books recommend talking to your teen. Have you tried doing that? First of all, family life is so busy that having a settled moment to talk is hard to find. Second, if your teen will break himself or herself for a moment from his ipod, cell phone, or computer, it is usually just to “yes” you or roll their eyes at you. But a new way of communicating might be an old way. Try writing.
Little notes can be left on the door of their room, on their backpack or on their pillows. We can use “post-its” for little reminders and for prodding to get chores done. But those big conversations we would love to have might take something else called a letter. Have you ever thought of putting down on paper any concerns you have about your teen son or daughter? Have you thought about writing a letter to your teen about how much you love them and care for them? Maybe it’s time to try it. Here is what you might want to say.
Dear son or daughter. I care for you so much that I worry about you. I want so much for you that I think more about your future then you do. I understand that you are growing and maturing at your own rate. And I also understand that I want you to mature faster than you are ready. This puts us at odds and causes us to argue at times. Anytime I say something, you take it as pressure even when I am talking with concern for you.
You need to understand that it is hard to be a parent of a teenager. I still remember rocking you to sleep, catching you from falling, and holding your hand to cross the street. I’ve saved your life at least 100 times and now you don’t want me to anymore. You want to try everything yourself. I understand that but it is hard for me.
You see, I can see your potential but I also know the dangers you face. Yes, I know they have talked about drugs and sex and smoking at school. But now there are new drugs like Ecstasy, new sex they call “hooking up” and “friends with benefits”, and new risks like gambling that aren’t covered in school. In fact, risks are taken by teens whether they are covered in school or not. Almost weekly teens die in car accidents caused by the same old drug I used – alcohol. Shrines go up by the roadsides and I pray I won’t be putting one up for you. Even “good” kids make mistakes. And now, at your age, mistakes have big consequences. So while I worry, you roll your eyes and feel invincible. Nothing is going to happen to you, of course. Yet things do happen – even to football captains, even to “A” students, even to popular kids or unpopular kids.
So I want to ask you to think about some things. First and foremost know that I love you and care a whole lot about you and your life. You are special to me and it would be torture to live the rest of my life without you. I don’t always tell you these things because of the way you might respond. And our family life is often too busy to stop and tell each other these facts. So we live on with assumptions only. But if you are to assume one thing, assume that I would still hold your hand or catch you from falling – I still care that much about you.
With that as your first assumption, then when you are exerting your independence and want to take some risks, take small risks. Take care of yourself. Be safe – not because something will happen to you – but because there are people caring about you.
Take your time setting your goals – but set them. I don’t value you for nothing. I can see your budding skills. Set a course for your life that uses your skills. Value yourself and do well. Certainly I will be proud but I will also know that your achievements are yours alone and not mine to claim.
There may be areas where I have been a less than perfect parent. Maybe I yelled at you to much. Or maybe I hurt your feelings by being overly critical. Please forgive me!! You won’t see how difficult it is to be a parent for years to come. But it is easy to make mistakes when your motivation is protecting, encouraging, and motivating someone you love.
Finally, I will work hard at supporting you. I do recognize that everyone makes mistakes. You will too. I will be there to help you recover from your mistakes. It might be hard for us at the beginning. I’ll try not to lecture or say “I told you so”. I will try to remember that you have to try things out for yourself. But if you are not seeing your own value and caring enough for yourself, I will be angry because I want you to value yourself as much as I value you.
There! I said what I wanted to say. I have a lot more to say – like don’t drink and drive, don’t smoke, be careful with sex, don’t get hooked on gambling, those new drugs are not safe and . . . but those things you have heard before. And I have to let go a little. And I might have to trust that because I value you, you might value yourself. Take care. Love Mom or Dad or both.
Don’t let me put words on your paper for you. Write your own letter. Personalize it to your child and any specific concerns you have. Put it in a private place but make sure they read it. And find a moment to ask them about it. Teens can be difficult to communicate with. We need to use all avenues available to us to make sure we say what we need to say.