Welcome to my Guest Columnist! Introducing my daughter Sarah –
My mom asked me if I would guest write for some of her blog posts. I am 25 now, and I wasn’t sure at first what I would even want to write about. She told me that while a lot of people ask for advice about drugs and drinking, peer pressure, talking back and sex, she wants her blog to revolve around relationships. I’m going to try to talk about the above issues as they relate to relationships as best I can.
The first thought that popped into my mind was a phrase I heard (and said) repeatedly while I was a teenager: “My mom (or dad) would die if _____.” Whenever we shared with each other the things that would most scandalize or shock our parents, those were usually some of the first words out of our mouths.
My mom always said that she wanted to have an open relationship with me, and to be honest, I wanted that too—badly—but often when I was on the cusp of opening up to her, I would almost immediately create in my mind what I thought her reaction would be. And it was my perception of her future reaction that often kept me from opening up to her.
Keep in mind that my perception of my mom’s reaction and her actual reaction were not always the same, but her reactions when I did open up influenced the way I envisioned her future responses to my truths to be (example: being grounded for long periods of time, etc.).
I would encourage parents to envision their responses to how their teens truths would be—whether it be around drugs, drinking, or sex. If you imagine it to be an epic meltdown or a drag out fight, then your teen, who I’d imagine knows you fairly well, might not be as open about talking about some of the issues they’d guess would elicit these reactions.
My mom suggested I come up with a list of “do’s” and “don’ts” in this area:
- DON’T be quick to blurt out the first thing that comes into your mind if your child opens up to you about something. Responding is always better than reacting.
- DO appraise what your reactions would be if your child opened up to you. If you envision a dramatic reaction on your end, then your teen can probably envision it too… and won’t be likely to open up. Try processing through why your reaction would be so strong.
- DO let your teen know that no matter what they do—no matter how “horrific” or shocking—you would love them and work through it with them regardless. And if you don’t feel like you’d be speaking truth in saying this, then maybe you need to take a hard look at why you feel that way.
- DO work on yourself to figure out why you feel the way you feel around these issues—usually the stronger I react to something, the more my reaction has to do with me than it does the other person.
Since the days of my mom freaking out about things I’d tell her, she’s done a lot of work on herself and I feel a lot more comfortable telling her things. I’m sure a lot of things I’ve told her haven’t been easy for her to hear, but I feel much more at ease telling her things I never would’ve dreamed I could share before–and I credit much of that to her working through her own issues so she’d be able to respond in a way that is receptive to what I have to say. The personal growth she’s pursued has definitely helped our relationship to grow into an open one, and I know that no matter what I do, my mom will have the support she needs to receive my truth.
Sarah is 25, lives in Chicago and has a two-month old daughter named Leila. She works at a residential home for abused and neglected children that are wards of the state of Illinois.