What Teens Want Parents to Know

Suggestions that the teens have for their parents:

Sherry Henig, Ph.D.

1. Rules:  It is best for both parents to have the same rules.   Kids get confused if one parent has rules that are stricter than the other’s.  If one parent is permissive, they find that they might end up fighting with the other parent because they don’t understand, and have a hard time accepting why the other parent’s rules are stricter.  So, all in all, it is easier if everyone has the same rules.  And, relatedly, not that any teen wants to be punished, but it is preferable for both parents to have the same punishments for the same things, than for punishment practices to be different in the different households.

2. Money:  Teens don’t want to hear about parents’ money problems.  They don’t exactly understand how much money is needed for what, and they don’t want to discuss it.  Relatedly, they don’t want to hear complaints about the child support.  When it comes to their asking for things that cost money, they don’t want to be told to ask the other parent.  Instead, they’d prefer that their parents discuss it between themselves, and then give the final verdict to the teen.  They certainly don’t want to be caught up in the middle of a parental money issue.

3. Parental dating:  Teens understand that parents may date; and they want their parents to be happy.  That said, they would like their parents to be discrete about their dating experiences.  Some teens are interested in the details of a date, yet they feel they’d really rather not know many, if any, details.  They especially feel uncomfortable if a parent is dating while still living with the other parent.  They understand that this may happen, but they especially want parents to be discrete.  They might even prefer that parents say things like, “I’m going out with friends,” or, “I’m going out to a business meeting.”  They don’t want to be lied to, but, at the same time, they don’t want to get caught up in their parents’ dating details either.  And they really don’t want to meet their parents’ new girlfriends or boyfriends until it seems a relationship is getting off the ground.  They’d prefer their parents not text or talk on the phone to the boyfriend or girlfriend when they’re around.  They want their parents’ focus to be on them.  Not on a boyfriend or girlfriend.

4. Sleepovers with boyfriends and girlfriends:  Teens understand that this may happen, but it makes them very, very uncomfortable.  Even if parents are remarried, it still makes them feel uncomfortable! If there is any sleeping over, the more it seems that the adults are “sleeping,” the better.

5. PDA (Public displays of affection:) This makes teens uncomfortable; even if the parents are remarried.  They understand that in serious, committed relationships there may be some PDA, but, if there is going to be any PDA, then they want it to be low-level and discrete, and, if necessary, the parents can build up to more PDA(especially if it is a remarriage.)  But, bottom line, it makes them uncomfortable, so be forewarned.

6. Boyfriends, girlfriends, stepparents and their kids:  Teens don’t want to be forced to become friendly with their parent’s boyfriend’s or girlfriend’s kids.  If the kids click, then a friendship might result.  But if the kids don’t hit it off, they don’t want to be expected to become friends.  Relatedly, they don’t want to be forced to go to their parent’s boyfriend’s or girlfriend’s social events.  It’s one thing to have to socialize with their own extended family.  They don’t want to have to socialize with another person’s extended family.

7. Visits with the other parent:  If they have a good time with the other parent, they want the parent to whom they are coming home to be happy for them.  They don’t want to feel that the parents need to compete with one another in terms of providing pleasurable activities, etc. for them; that makes them feel sad and guilty.  They don’t want each parent to feel the burden of having to offer the same opportunities as the other parent; but they don’t want to feel that they have to hide the joy they experienced with the other parent.  Also, if they report that they had a bad time with the other parent, they don’t want the parent to whom they are telling this to contact the other parent and complain.  They want to be able to share their experiences, good or bad, without there being any negative repercussions.  (Of course, if you, as the parent, suspect real abuse, or danger, then it is important to try to protect your son or daughter.)

8. Parental fighting:  This makes teens very uncomfortable.  They find it very perplexing and upsetting that two people can date, fall in love, get married and have children, and then end up having terrible fights.

9. Parental denigrating of the other parent:  Teens don’t like this.  It makes them feel very confused and sad.  They don’t know what to believe, and they don’t want to believe that either of their parents is so flawed as to need to be put down.