Understanding Each Other

Q: Sometimes I think my teens live in another world. I don’t know why they act the way they do. Is it because they don’t like me? Why are they upset when I ask them to help around the house? I really need their help. Can’t they see that?

Editor’s note: Sometimes it’s hard for us to understand what our teens are going through. As parents, we tend to look at how their behavior affects us, but we do not always realize the turmoil, the confusion, the questions that they often try to deal with on their own. The following heartcry of a young teen gives some insight into how some young people feel, which can help us understand them and learn how to relate to them.

Absorbed in our own tribulations and problems, we adults too often forget that youth is a jarring time, full of excruciating first experiences and full-blown tragedies. It is a pimple on the cheek which everyone will see; it is the clothes which never seem to fit a gangly body; it is the ultimate disappointment, a broken promise by a parent. It is a training ground for adulthood, a place and time to try for independence, a place and time to try and fail and succeed.—Anonymous

The heartcry of a young teen

Dear God, can You help me? Can anybody help me? What’s happening to me? I don’t understand. Everything is so difficult, and I’m so, so down. I don’t understand these things going on inside of me—all these feelings I get, and so many emotions. This pressure is too much. All these hassles!

No matter how hard I try to do my best, it’s just not good enough. Sometimes I just don’t know how I can please Mom any more—she expects such perfection. I really don’t want to complain, but I just feel like hired help sometimes.

Does anyone care about me? I sure could use some love and appreciation instead of getting all this flak, and people always getting on my case. I know I blow it, but how can I change? I’m so confused and wrapped up in such a tangled mess. I try to please my parents and I try to please my friends, but I don’t do good at either. Nothing seems to work and I always seem to mess up. I’m always botching things and getting another lecture.

I’m in a hole and I can’t get out, no matter how hard I try. Besides, what’s the use?—Everybody’s got me so labeled anyhow. It seems like all the bad kids are the ones that get all the attention. Maybe that’s the way to go. It’s so hard to be good.

I really don’t like just doing nothing. When I get away and blast out my music on my headphones—well, at least I can forget about everything for a few short moments that way. The only thing is, I still feel so, so empty inside. I feel so bad.

I wish I could talk to somebody about these problems, but who would ever understand? Or who’s got the time? I feel so confused, like a real misfit. What’s happening to me? I’m so confused. I feel so lonely. Is this growing up? All these things I feel and these changes in my body—it’s freaky, and scary, too. Does anybody understand how I feel? Who can help me? Does anybody have the time?

Sometimes I want to fly away! But, really, deep inside, I want to do something with my life. It just seems so hard. I want to make a difference, I just don’t know how.

I need help! I feel like I have so much inside of me, but nobody will listen. There are so many things I want to do—places to go and see, people to meet, things to experience. Isn’t there somebody that can help me through all this? I feel I need someone to guide me.

I must be doing something wrong, but what is it? Who can help me? Why do I feel like this? Is it because You don’t love me as much as You love others? God, I’m scared. The world is scary, and everything looks so difficult. What’s gonna become of me?

Editor’s note: Having received that insight into a young teen’s mind and heart, you might still be wondering what concrete steps you can take to show your teenager that you understand. What can you do to make yourself more relatable? Below is some unique yet practical advice on the issue of motivating your teens to be responsible and hardworking.

Getting through the barriers

We all know that in the adult world, resolving differences often requires that we go halfway to meet the other person. But when dealing with your teens, you might find you have to go nearly all the way over to their side, in the sense of giving them a great big dose of tolerance and understanding as you work to show them that you love them and care about their happiness—not what you think should make them happy, but the things they enjoy doing when they’re on their own.

Life is a great big school of hard knocks, so it’s understandable that you want your teens to get under the physical load you carry around the house or with the other children. After all, you think, before too much longer they’re going to be facing the big bad world, a place where nobody makes your bed or picks up your laundry, cooks your food or lets you sleep late once in awhile. It’s true, your teens do need to learn self-discipline, as well as acquire good working habits. Having said that, though, you might find you need to heartily fill up the other side of the balance. What might that be? Simply letting them have fun.

Adolescence is an age of contradictions. Adolescents’ bodies, minds and emotions are all growing at different rates, and you can’t expect to know exactly where your teens are at when they don’t even know. One thing is certain with almost all teens, though, and that is that they have a great vacuum for heavy doses of pure fun. You can supply them with a lot of opportunities to fill that vacuum, thereby sending the message that you understand their needs in this area. Once you’ve done that, and shown through your actions that you’re eager to provide them with as much opportunity as possible to enjoy their lives while they are young, you’ll find that they will be much more receptive to the other side of the scale, the hard work and helping-to-carry-the-load side. When they know that you recognize their needs and do your best to fill them, they’ll be more willing to recognize your needs for helping around the house and with their brothers and sisters, or to even take over once in awhile so you can take some time off.

If this advice seems a little suspect to you, well, just try it for a month! Factor in plenty of recreational opportunities for your teens—and that means at least three times a week, if at all possible—and make sure you factor in their ideas of having fun and not just yours. Show them that your life doesn’t revolve around laundry schedules and mealtime plans, but let the child in you come out and play. Once they see that side of you, they’ll be more sympathetic to the side that has had to grow up, and they’ll be more willing to help as well.

A boy was in danger of being drowned while swimming in a river. Seeing a traveler on the bank, he called to him for help, but the man started to lecture him about swimming alone in dangerous places. “Rescue me now,” cried the boy, “you can lecture me when I am safe!”
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