Dear parents of teens. This is what your teenager wants you to know. This is what they want to tell you if they could find the words. This is what’s going through their confused and overwhelmed minds when they slam the door in your face, tell you that they hate you, and scream at you for not understanding anything about them.
It’s written by author Gretchen Schmelzer and it’s something every parent of tweens or teens should read.
Because there will come a time when you and your teenager get into a fight. When you will feel like you’ve lost control of your child and when you will curse this stage in parenting.
And while your teenager will most likely never find the right words to express how they feel, Gretchen does an amazing job of doing it for them.
This is the letter I wish I could write.
This fight we are in right now. I need it. I need this fight. I can’t tell you this because I don’t have the language for it and it wouldn’t make sense anyway.
But I need this fight. Badly. I need to hate you right now and I need you to survive it. I need you to survive my hating you and you hating me. I need this fight even though I hate it too.
It doesn’t matter what this fight is even about: curfew, homework, laundry, my messy room, going out, staying in, leaving, not leaving, boyfriend, girlfriend, no friends, bad friends. It doesn’t matter.
I need to fight you on it and I need you to fight me back.
I desperately need you to hold the other end of the rope. To hang on tightly while I thrash on the other end—while I find the handholds and footholds in this new world I feel like I am in.
I used to know who I was, who you were, who we were. But right now I don’t. Right now I am looking for my edges and I can sometimes only find them when I am pulling on you.
When I push everything I used to know to its edge. Then I feel like I exist and for a minute I can breathe. I know you long for the sweeter kid that I was. I know this because I long for that kid too, and some of that longing is what is so painful for me right now.
I need this fight and I need to see that no matter how bad or big my feelings are—they won’t destroy you or me.
I need you to love me even at my worst, even when it looks like I don’t love you. I need you to love yourself and me for the both of us right now. I know it sucks to be disliked and labeled the bad guy. I feel the same way on the inside, but I need you to tolerate it and get other grownups to help you.
Because I can’t right now. If you want to get all of your grown up friends together and have a ‘surviving-your-teenager-support-group-rage-fest’ that’s fine with me. Or talk about me behind my back–I don’t care.
Just don’t give up on me. Don’t give up on this fight. I need it.
This is the fight that will teach me that my shadow is not bigger than my light.
This is the fight that will teach me that bad feelings don’t mean the end of a relationship.
This is the fight that will teach me how to listen to myself, even when it might disappoint others.
And this particular fight will end. Like any storm, it will blow over. And I will forget and you will forget. And then it will come back. And I will need you to hang on to the rope again. I will need this over and over for years.
I know there is nothing inherently satisfying in this job for you. I know I will likely never thank you for it or even acknowledge your side of it. In fact, I will probably criticize you for all this hard work. It will seem like nothing you do will be enough.
And yet, I am relying entirely on your ability to stay in this fight. No matter how much I argue. No matter how much I sulk. No matter how silent I get.
Please hang on to the other end of the rope. And know that you are doing the most important job that anyone could possibly be doing for me right now.
Love, Your Teenager
Parent, don’t let go
Sometimes your teenager will need to fight you, hate you, and take their anger out on you. Kind of the same way our toddlers often acts out when they are with us because we are their safe zone. Toddlers may have 1 million and one emotions throughout the day but they won’t know how to express them and regulate these emotions until you’re there. And often this comes out in tears, tantrums and frustration.
This is the same with your teenager. Except instead of tears and a tantrum, it’s swearing, slamming doors, storming out of the house, hissing insults at you, and pushing you further and further away.
And a kiss and a cuddle no longer work.
The teenager territory is probably one of the hardest parenting spaces and also the scariest especially when our teens start to do questionable things and act out.
When their way to regulate is to argue with you and purposely defy you.
When every day seems like a game of tug-of-war. We hold on to that rope so tightly even though it seems like they want us to let go, step back, drop the rope and just stop trying.
Mums, we see you and we are there too.
Whatever you do, don’t let go.
Your teenager needs you to hold on, even though it seems like they don’t.
They need us to keep trying, to keep asking, to keep pushing them, to keep arguing back, to know that we care and we are there. That we will always be there, even when they are at their worst and even when it seems like a losing battle.
Because, as Gretchen so beautifully puts it, sometimes teens can only find themselves when they are pulling on you.