9 Things Your Teens Wish You Knew

Parents, here's your annual performance review. We asked teens in Arlington, McLean and Falls Church to give it to us straight.

#2. Their pain is real.

Grace still remembers the time she told her parents she had been verbally bullied in middle school. Her dad was quick to pull out the old cliché: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”

His response wasn’t helpful, she says, because “that name did kind of hurt.”

Also not helpful: the parental platitude that middle school and high school will one day be a distant memory. Teens need to be allowed to feel their pain—and your empathy—in the now.

“It may not be a big deal in the grand scheme of things, but for that kid whose whole world revolves around [the issue at hand] with everyone watching them, it’s a big deal,” says Gloria Carpenter, an Arlington psychologist. “You have to acknowledge that you see them hurting and validate their feelings.”

“Being able to talk to my parents if I need some emotional support…is really important,” agrees Adam, a senior who confides that many of his current worries revolve around college.

David, a recent graduate in Arlington, is looking even further into the future and feeling anxious. “I’m most afraid of not living the life I dream of living,” he says.

How parents offer their support during these times of vulnerability matters. Think lots of listening and not so much pontificating, advises Todd Kashdan, a professor of psychology at George Mason University and author of the book, The Upside of Your Dark Side. He encourages parents to be more curious than critical, and to present themselves as a sounding board. “When you’re collecting information from your teen, it’s better to ask questions. Resist the temptation to offer unsolicited wisdom. The latter often just closes down the gates.”

Categories: Parents & Kids