Dear Anxious Parent, From Your Struggling Teen…

By Julie and David Bulitt

The two of us spend our lives working with people who are under stress. Work brings stress, money brings stress, families and children and relationships all bring stress. At Julie’s office, there is a steady stream of parents who are struggling, often working to stay together and on the same page. By the time people get to sit across from David in his office, the struggles certainly continue, but usually by that point the opportunity for working together has passed. But what about the struggles and stresses of the younger members of these families? 

The high schoolers, the teenagers, the kids who are looking to fit in, get good grades, and figure out life’s mysteries? Emotions are all over the map. Their hormones are raging. They are constantly under fire from school, from peers and quite frequently, from anxious and worried parents. There is a proverb that says, “You are only as happy as your least happy child.”   That may most certainly be true for many parents. At the same time though, how happy are the kids of those parents? The teenagers who are weighed by the stresses, pressures, and anxieties from their own parents?  

Here is a letter that one of our teenage kids might write, if he or she had the courage to do it:

Dear Parent:

I am having a hard time.  I know I am. 

Your micromanaging makes me feel bad, like I am not good enough.

Your bugging me to do things makes me not do them. 

I want to have control over my life.  I am trying to figure out how.  You are not helping.

Your anxiety about things is making me more anxious and frustrated.

I see more of what’s in front of me than you think I can.  I am not ready and don’t want to look too far ahead.  

Your nagging is making me in not want to be near you.

I am staying up later than you think. 

Social media and technology might be distractions but they are also a way I connect with friends and unwind.

Anger is easier for me to express than my sadness sometimes.

I feel criticized, and hate when you compare me to other kids who got this award, or that job, or into some college.

My friends are important to me but sometimes they are confusing to me.

I don’t know where I belong.   

I am afraid to ask for help because it makes me look stupid and weak.

It’s easier for me to ignore or not do something if I can’t do it perfectly or how I think you want me to do it.

I can’t learn from your mistakes, no matter how many times you tell me what you did or didn’t do when you were my age.

I don’t want to try sometimes, because it’s scary and I may fail.

I want your help but the cost is too high. You talk to me like I am dumb, get frustrated or short tempered with me. 

 I want things to be my ideas, not yours.

Don’t be afraid for me. I am stronger than you think.

-From Your Struggling Teen

Julie and David Bulitt, a licensed clinical social worker and divorce lawyer, have been married for 33 years. Their new book, THE 5 CORE CONVERSATIONS FOR COUPLES, will be published by Skyhorse Publishing and Simon & Schuster e-books in February 2020. Read about Julie and David at www.thebulitts.com.

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