Young People Ask . . .
How Can I Get My Parents to Understand Me?
“I COULD see we were making each other miserable,” revealed 17-year-old Vickie. “Though I’m sure Dad loved me, I knew he would never understand me, and Mom was just ‘out of it’ emotionally. I hated coming home.” Vickie wanted to get married—anything to get away from home. “My parents didn’t realize how hard I was trying to do what was right. I just couldn’t handle trying to communicate. I couldn’t go where I wanted or see whom I wanted. I just had to get out!” But she talked to an older friend first.
“Vickie, just think about your parents—your flesh and blood. They raised you,” said the discerning older woman. “If you can’t handle this relationship, how can you handle one with someone of your own age that hasn’t put 17 years of love into you? Why not work to improve your personality?” This made Vickie think.
If you were Vickie, what would you have done? The easiest course would be to leave. But Vickie took the harder one. She thought, ‘I will work like crazy to make things right and to improve my personality. Maybe then Mom and Dad will understand me better.’ How have Vickie and others succeeded in getting their parents to understand them?
Be Honest With Your Parents
Vickie was, to some extent, living a double life; secretly dating a boy against her parents’ wishes. She was sure her parents just wouldn’t understand her feelings for her boyfriend. Naturally the gap between her and them widened.
But Vickie is not the only young person who has played two roles. Conflicting emotions or “desires incidental to youth” may well up in a youth’s heart so that there is a feeling of being caught between these emotions and what parents expect. (2 Timothy 2:22) Ann, for example, began secretly having sex relations with boys she met at school at age 14. Though complaining that her parents were not understanding, she admitted: “My life at school was completely different from my life at home. I was a split personality. At school I followed my heart’s desire and was like my friends, while at home I appeared totally innocent.” At age 15 she was pregnant.
“I didn’t realize the results until it happened. The life of fun and freedom I had behind my parents’ back resulted in the complete opposite,” explained Ann. “While I was playing the part of being so innocent at home I wouldn’t discuss my feelings about boys with Mom, thinking that she wouldn’t understand. Now that I am rearing an illegitimate child I realize she did understand. I was the one who couldn’t see how wrong my heart had been.” Ann understood—but too late—the truth of the Bible proverb Pr (28:26): “He that is trusting in his own heart is stupid, but he that is walking in wisdom is the one that will escape.”
Vickie, on the other hand, took an honest look at herself. She soon realized that her parents were right and her own heart was wrong. She began to ‘walk in wisdom’ and terminated her association with her boyfriend, though it was very difficult. This was her first step toward closing the emotional gap between her and her parents. She also escaped the fearsome consequences that sexual immorality could have brought her.
Perhaps you too need to be honest with yourself and your parents. Playing two roles will surely hinder your parents’ efforts to understand you.
Take the Time to Talk
“The best time I ever had with my dad,” said John of a trip he and his father made up to their summer cottage. “I’d never spent six hours alone with him in my whole life. Six hours up, six hours back. No car radio. We really talked. It’s as if we discovered each other. There’s more to him than I thought. It made us friends.”
Why not make it a point to sit down regularly with your mom or dad and have a good talk? Catch them up on activities in your life and draw from their experiences. You might find it awkward at first. Vickie did. “I had absolutely no rapport with older ones. But I made a point of tagging along with my parents when they associated with other adults. In time I developed friendships with these who were my parents’ age, and this gave me a more rounded outlook. It was easier to carry on conversations with my parents. The atmosphere at home improved dramatically.”
Associating with those who have gained wisdom over the years will prevent you from adopting a narrow, limited outlook on life, which can happen if you keep company only with your youthful peers.—Proverbs 13:20.
Communicate Your Feelings
“I talk straight from my heart and speak sincerely the knowledge coming from my lips.” Thus spoke a young man who lived over 35 centuries ago—Elihu. (Job 33:3, Beck’s version) He addressed the older man Job ‘straight from his heart.’ Is that how you talk with your parents? This can be extremely hard.
For example, Gregory, when a teenager, felt his mom was totally unreasonable. He coped with the heated conflict by staying away from home as much as he could. But finally the situation became critical. So he approached the congregation elders for help at the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses that he and his family went to. They kindly urged him to talk more to his mother, speaking ‘straight from his heart.’—James 5:14.
“For the first time in my life I began to tell Mom how I felt,” said Gregory. “I told her why I wanted to do things and did not just assume she knew. Often I poured out my heart and explained that I wasn’t trying to do anything wrong and how bad I felt because she treated me like a little child. Then she began to understand and slowly things got a whole lot better.”
Gregory was honest. He was not living a double life and trying to hoodwink his mother into letting him have his own way. No, he truly ‘gave his heart’ to her, and she responded with increased understanding. Though it may seem painful to reveal to your mom or dad that you can be vulnerable or have certain touchy problems, so doing can be a giant step toward getting your parents to understand you.—Proverbs 23:26.
What if You Disagree?
When you and your parents don’t see eye to eye, remember: talk, don’t fight. “All his spirit [impulses] is what a stupid one lets out, but he that is wise keeps it calm to the last.” (Proverbs 29:11) Raising your voice, ‘letting out all your spirit,’ is not the way to improve understanding.
Show that you are wise, not stupid, by calmly discussing the rational merits of your viewpoint. Stick to the issues rather than arguing, “Everybody else does it!”
But you have to face the fact that at times your parents are going to say No. This does not mean they do not understand you. They may see a harmful course or a bad tendency and they want to protect you. “My mother is strict on me. She knows things,” revealed a 16-year-old girl. “It bothers me that she tells me I can’t do something, or come into the house at a certain time. But deep down inside, she really cares.” Then, after reflecting on her friends, she continued: “They just roam the streets, do what they want and their mothers don’t really care. But my mother . . . she looks out for me.”
This girl was one of 920 females aged 12 to 18 living throughout the continental United States, Alaska and Puerto Rico who were interviewed in an extensive study done by Dr. Gisela Konopka of the University of Minnesota. In her book Young Girls—A Portrait of Adolescence (1976) she concluded: “It was not the strictness that most girls resented but being ‘put down,’ being treated like little children. Strictness in itself, if combined with respect, was appreciated.”
Yes, appreciated. This is how most young people feel about parents who listen and give them firm guidelines. In fact, Dr. Konopka reported: “It is striking that the vast majority of adults who ranked highest in the list as people who understood them were family members.” Nearly 75 percent of the young women reportedly felt close to adults and able to confide in them.
The security and warmth that mutual understanding brings to a family is beyond words. It makes the home a haven in times of anguish. Vickie, Gregory and others found this to be true. But real effort is needed. Do your part. If you do, then you, too, will be able to say, ‘I got my parents to understand me.’
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Communicating your feelings is one of the best ways to help your parents understand you