What do teens talk to parents about?
By CECILIA A. TUCKER
© St. Petersburg Times
published June 10, 2002
I just need simple answers from my parents to what I consider simple questions. I want to know things like: Why not? How? And When? I want answers to be delivered quickly.
For example: "Yes, you can." Or "No, you can't." I hate "maybe" and "we will see" answers. I get mad when I am told "we will have to see" and "wait till tomorrow." I don't like it when my parent tells me both of them will have to think about it and get back to me later, or even when I'm told simply to go ask my other parent. Just give me an answer and I will quit bugging you.
When I come home from school or work, I am usually tired. When I ask what time dinner will be, I am really asking you if I have time to take a nap. I want to know what is for dinner because I am deciding if I want to eat a snack before I do other things. When I ask what is on your schedule tonight, that really means I may need your help with something. When I question you about your day, I am trying to decide if it is safe for me to give you scary information. When I ask what time you will be home, I am checking to see when I need to do what you have asked me to do. When I ask if you are going out tonight, I am really asking if I will be home alone.
It seems the questions I ask you often have double meanings. I don't think I was aware of that until I started writing this note to you. I don't mean to be disrespectful or sneaky but I am sure it must sound that way to you at times. I know I seem very demanding when I ask where you put my stuff or can I have more money. I must sound selfish and spoiled when I ask for you to take me somewhere, ask for the car, the phone, the remote control and computer time. You must hate it when I keep asking why I can't have this or that and why I can't go here or there!
It seems to me that we have a communication problem. I don't like for you to ask me questions and you really don't like for me to ask you questions. Questions do seem to be a logical way to communicate but we both seem to take offense at answering them. I wish we could find another way to give out information more freely. Maybe it would help if both of us offered more information. Why am I so resistant to this idea? I seem to be under the impression that teenagers and parents aren't supposed to have freeflowing, voluntary conversations. I wonder if it has to be this way, or could that be one of the myths about teens and parents we just keep preserving?
I am not sure I know the answer to this question but I do know there must be an easier way to talk to each other without all this defensiveness and avoidance.
I'm going to make an effort the next few weeks to give out some information BEFORE anyone has an opportunity to ask me a dozen questions. I will try to hit the highlights of my day when I see my parents. I won't start the night with a dozen questions for them, either. Maybe they will get my drift and not ask me multiple questions. I will listen to how their day was before I plunge into making any demands on their time and energy. Maybe they will follow my lead and give me the same courtesy.
I don't know if this will work, but it is at least worth a try. Anything is better than what is happening now!
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IT! (Private thoughts of the Indomitable Teen) is written by Cecilia Tucker under the editorial guidance of a panel of teenagers (in exchange for pizza and volunteer hours). Tucker is a licensed marriage and family therapist at the Counseling Center for New Direction in Seminole. Comments are welcome. You may write c/o: IT!, Xpress, the Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731, or e-mail Floridian@sptimes.com. If you are interested in being on the teen editorial panel, please contact Cecilia Tucker at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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