Q. I read your last week’s column with a lot of feelings. I would never lie to my parents. I think you handled the question well. I’d like to share something though. Some teens are under incredible pressure to excel. Ever since I was a little kid, I knew I better bring home A papers and do well on tests. Now that I’m a senior next year, the stress is intense. I take every AP course open to me. I study until I make myself sick. I love my parents. I know they want the best for me. But I often wonder what it would be like to have parents who were not so very focused on my grades. I’m so afraid of disappointing them. I’m looking forward to college to escape. I wish I could tell them that I will still try hard if they ease up on me.
Q. I know your question last week was about lying, but I’m jealous of that graduate’s parents. I’m one of many – although all my half siblings don’t live with me. We either share a mom or a dad. None of us have parents who worry about our education. I know they are worried about other things, and I understand – putting food on the table, paying for everything we all need. I study because I know it matters. I know my ticket to a better life is education. I fantasize – what would it be like to have parents who care so much about me getting honors that I would feel compelled to lie to them? What would it feel like to have parents who are involved in my schooling?
Mary Jo’s Response: I’ve chosen to respond to you together; more than writing a response, I wish I could hug you both. Last week’s column struck a nerve – I received emails from adults and texts from young people. Your words presented contrasting views; I send you both respect.
Parenting can be a daunting job. As teens, you deserve parents who get you, listen, have reasonable expectations, and respect your feelings and needs. You deserve someone who can hold space with you as you grow.
Not all parents have the emotional bandwidth to hold space with their teens. I’ve been a parent and I’m a grandparent. These are my best roles in life, and they also challenge me the most. No baby comes with a manual – parents do the best they can in each situation and make many decisions daily.
One of you longs for less pressure from your parents; the other wants parents who pay attention to your school needs and achievements. Both of you are doing well academically – I am proud of you. One of you mentioned a wish that your feelings could be shared. I would like you both to share your feelings with your parents – it is possible they don’t know you are stressed. You may be masking how you really feel. Communicate with them.
Yes, it is true – education is a ticket to a better future. Ultimately, your academic achievements benefit you, not your parents. As a child, I coveted my friend’s parents, who rewarded her with a dollar for every A she brought home on her report card. My mother told me I earned A’s for myself, not for a reward, and my motivation needed to be internal, not external. I didn’t understand then; I do now.
You are people of great worth. Continue to trust in your ability to do well, be kind to yourself, and make your senior year count. Talk to your parents. Seek support for stress with your school counselors. May all go well.
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