I have to say, one of my favorite questions to ask a teens is “What percentage of information do you not share with your parents?” I get a lot of surprised looks from teens when I ask this question, but none of them refuse to answer. If fact, just the opposite. They want to tell me. Usually they take a moment, and with a smirk on their face…..they say “20%”. Now this 20% usually relates to one of more of the following areas so parents take note.
1) Friends- Do you know all of your teen’s friends? Probably not, but I’m sure you are aware of the ones getting good grades and playing on the soccer team. What about the other friends…. the ones smoking, getting kicked out of school or passing out at the party. These are the friends that your teen knows that you wouldn’t approve of and so they don’t tell you about them. However, these friends are highly influential with your teen.
2) Drinking/alcohol- I have yet to hear one story from a teen where alcohol was NOT at the party. Your teen may or may not choose to drink, but the alcohol is ever present. They are usually attending the parties because that is what one does to be “popular” in high school. If they don’t want to drink, the smart ones designate themselves as the driver, so they don’t get peer pressured into a drinking game or a bottle of beer.
3) Stress/anxiety- Kids today are stressed out. I’m not really sure how or when this happened, but they are all constantly talking about how stressed out they are. Their anxiety usually relates to school and getting good grades if college is on their mind. Or it’s related to being well liked by their peers and socially accepted by those in class or on their team. Plainly put….being popular. This anxiety occupies a lot of their time.
4) Boys- Girls worry or “wonder” about boys. It’s a fact. Having a boyfriend, not having a boyfriend and the expectations from boys these days. Many girls are seeking advice, but don’t know where to go. Even if your teen tells you that they don’t care, trust me…it’s on their mind.
5) Body image- I’d say at least 90% of the girls I have spoken with, wish they were thinner. At least 50% of those same girls also have experienced eating disorders at one time. Many feel a silent pressure from media, friends, and/or family about being disciplined, staying thin and not over indulging.
Teens today don’t want to bother their parents with these issues. They see their parents as too busy, stressed out, working late and don’t want to burden them. So, they are constantly saying that “everything is fine” when in fact, it’s not. They are worrying about a lot of things on the inside, but you would never know it. Why? Because they don’t want you to see. In the words of one 16 yr. old teen that I interviewed, “you can hide a lot behind a smile.”
Parents, take the time to sit down with your teen and talk to them. Don’t let them off the hook so easily when they say “everything is fine.” Let them see that you care about this 20% and that you are there for them.