Teens Confess: 'What I Don't Tell My Parents'
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  • It’s not only difficult when your loving child transforms into a belligerent and sarcastic teenager — it hurts. All of a sudden, you don’t know how to deal with this person living under your roof who treats you like you know nothing about her when, before this, you were her everything.

    Life coach Melissa Pizaña-Cruz explains what happens at this stage in a teenager’s life: “The closing down of communication of the teen to the parent is a result of their path to adulthood. It is in no way intentional, but part of the path of coming into one’s own. Teens need to individuate themselves from their parents, and one of the areas they do this is in communication.”

    Pizaña-Cruz uses “stages of adolescent development” (scholar Sedra Spano’s research for Cornell University in New York) to paint a clearer picture of what’s going on in a teen’s life.

    Ages 10 to 14

    Children become moody and, occasionally, rude. Less attention is paid to parents and close friendships are more important. Kids begin to realize that their parents aren’t as perfect as they thought, so they begin to search for new people to love as well. Their peers are more influential when it comes to their personal interests and dress preferences. But, when stressed, these seemingly mini-adults begin to behave like children again. 

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    Ages 15 to 17

    Teenagers become extremely concerned about their body and how they look. They turn inward, focusing on what’s going on inside, and they vacillate between having unrealistically high expectations for themselves and painful worries about failure. All these new thoughts and experiences are shared and discussed at length with peers or written about in a journal, blog, or on social media. However, note that if they do express themselves online, they usually do not make their parents privy to their accounts. Because their friends have taken center stage, they not only withdraw from their parents, they also have a lowered opinion of them, probably as a result of realizing that parents are fallible and not as impregnable as they saw them as children. This psychological loss of their parents, even if the kids aren’t aware of it, can cause periods of sadness. 

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    Ages 18 to 21

    They have a better grip of who they are, have greater concern for others, can now rely on themselves, and can make their own decisions. They should also be able to delay gratification, think and weigh matters thoroughly before making choices, and express themselves and their ideas better. It’s possible they have developed a better sense of humor, too, because they aren’t as self-conscious anymore, and their interests and emotions are now more stable. They are also more emotionally equipped to compromise, and they experience pride in their work.

    We asked a few teenagers about the deepest secret they keep from their parents, and this is what they told us:

    “Ever since I was small, I’ve been into different activities such as volleyball, basketball, voice lessons, dancing lessons, and others. The secret that I’ve been hiding from my parents is that I did all those things mostly for them. When I did all of those things, it made my parents really happy. Up to now, I still do some of those activities or take some of those lessons just to make my parents very happy.” — Claire, 13

    "I study far from my parents. With this liberty, I opened a bank account without them knowing! Most of my savings also go there without them knowing. I used the money I saved there to buy the expensive gadgets I want because I know if I ask them for money to buy those things, they won’t allow me.” — Tony, 17

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    “I have a girlfriend, and my mom doesn’t know. It's my first relationship. My mom is very strict about these things, especially while I’m still studying, so I didn’t tell her. However, I told my dad because he has this attitude that ‘it’s natural, why be angry?’ We’ve been together my whole high school life and I’m going to be fourth year high school already.” — James, 18

    “My parents are very conservative. They don’t really want me hanging out with boys all the time. They also don’t like it when I drink, especially because I’m still underage. So every time I’m with a guy, I just lie to my parents about it. Or if I go out with my friends, I try my best to hide from my parents that I drank.” — Tessa, 16

    “One of the things that they don’t know about me is that I swear frequently. I swear when I'm in the house, yes, but not as much as I do when I’m out with my friends. Let’s just say that my language inside the house is censored and not as crude. They also don’t know I have private social media accounts that only my close friends could see.” — Kat, 16

    “I live two cities away from my friends. Once, I asked permission to borrow the car to head to my friend’s house. When we reached the place, our driver went home, and I drove instead. I didn’t tell my parents who drove us later on in the night, and I didn’t tell them that I went home at 2:30 a.m. They thought my friend’s sister drove, and that I got back at 12 midnight. I know they would get mad, so I didn’t say anything.” — Anna, 19

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    “I don’t tell my parents the exact reason why I come home late after my curfew. I’d tell them we’re eating out or my friend has to drop a number of people home when in fact I just want to stay longer and have fun.” —Marie, 16

    “I keep my low test grades from my parents because they would get very upset and give me a long lecture on how important my grades are, especially for my future. I find all those lectures and arguments very stressful and redundant. After class, whenever my parents ask me how my grades are, I tell them all the good grades and make sure that no low grades come out just to keep everything light and happy in the house.” — Mark, 16

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    “My parents are very strict when it comes to drinking or drugs. They do know that I involve myself in both drinking and drugs, but they don’t know that I do it often with my friends. I keep it from my parents because I am certain that they’ll punish me, ground me, and give me the guilt trip if they do find out. That’s just what they did to my older siblings.” — Andrew, 17

    “I don’t tell my parents that my boyfriend and I make out—they might die. I tell them that I’m hanging out at a friend’s house, but I’m really with my boyfriend. It’s not like we’re having sex, but I don’t think they need to know all that stuff.” — Regine, 18

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    “I don’t tell my parents that there’s always alcohol at the parties I attend. If I tell them, they’ll freak out and not let me go out anymore.” — Denise, 17

    “I don’t tell either of my parents most of what happens in my life or what I think about most because my mom will probably get mad at me for something one way or another, and my dad will probably turn it into a huge joke because he can’t take anything seriously.” — Sharon, 17 

    “Whenever I would leave for an adventure with some friends or relatives, I never tell my mom where I’m going because I know that she’ll be so overprotective and won’t allow me to go.” — Michelle, 15

    “I don’t tell my parents stuff I think they won’t understand. I don’t lie to my parents but I tell them ‘filtered truths.’ Like, if they ask me about my guy best friend, I tell them we talk regularly but I don’t tell them the details of the conversations. If they ask about those details, I give the least significant ones. I also don’t tell my parents stuff that will hurt them, even if it’s unintentional. Like, how I feel they control me sometimes. I know that they just intend to guide me, but their perception of guidance may be different from mine. And I can’t really control how I feel about their guidance. Sometimes I understand it, sometimes I don’t. But the bottom line is: I love my family. I know they love me, too. I don’t tell some stuff to my parents, like they don’t tell some stuff to me and my sisters. There are parents-only stuff and there are teens-only stuff. i think everyone should understand that.” —Andrea, 16

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    “My parents are very strict about the time that I should come home from a party or a friend’s house. They would constantly warn me that if I come home later than the said time, they’ll give me an earlier curfew. Because of this, I’d tell my parents the day after I get home from a party or a friend’s house that I went home before my curfew or earlier, even though I didn’t. I’d keep from them the exact time that I arrived home or I’d make up excuses on why I arrived home a little late.” — Sasha, 16

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    How to deal with your teen

    You need to interact with them every day. Gaining back their affection does not happen overnight. These tips might also help: 

    Stop criticizing.

    It’s tough for a parent not to correct. In our minds, we are teaching. we are making them better people. But do you need to find fault all the time? Do you need to put down your child’s choices or tastes? Let go if it’s not a big deal. Know that the voices in your teenager’s head are already putting her down. Be there to support her and back her up.

    Don’t expect them to agree with everything you ask.

    They are struggling to develop into grown-ups who can make their own decisions. The worst thing you can do is to railroad them into doing what you want, and to expect them to comply instantly. Explain the situation, reason with your children, have them make the choices that are best for them. If they see that you are treating their decisions with respect, they will return the favor.

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    Keep the questions to a minimum.

    Have you noticed that every time you ask question after question, their answers become even more monosyllabic? An interrogation is not going to make your teenager suddenly decide to bare her/his soul to you. Allow her/him to speak to you, just ask a few questions, and make sure these aren’t demanding ones. Then listen.

    Listen.

    With the dawn of social media, everyone is dying to get a word in. Teenagers, who have swirling emotions constantly battling each other inside their brains, need to be heard the most. They feel their parents do not listen or do not want to listen. As soon as they open up about something, their parents get angry, begin to lecture, or start to interrogate. Find out what your teenager wants to communicate to you, but let her do this on her own terms. Eventually, when she feels she can trust you not to disapprove of her or put her down, she will ask for your thoughts. 

    Don’t compare them with others.

    All a teenager wants at this point is acceptance and love because, inside, she cannot seem to find it for herself. If her parents, the ones who are supposed to provide the unconditional love and acceptance she so desperately craves, are the first to compare her with someone else, her self-esteem will take an even deeper nosedive. Naturally, she will begin to resent the people she had expected to get love and acceptance from, and who did not give it. She will not divulge secrets to them. Do not be that parent. 

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    Show you trust them.

    It’s hard to let go and see your little one as someone who can now make her own decisions and be in charge of her own life, but this is the key to your teenager’s heart. When you show that you trust them and are not constantly suspicious, they will not just begin to share their lives with you, they will begin to act worthy of that trust—a great way to prepare them for life as an adult. 

    This story originally appeared in the September 2015 issue of Good Housekeeping magazine.

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