January 2008

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Mother lectures daughter.
Teen Voice 

A Failure To Communicate
Strong relationships between parents and teenagers can provide the moral compass for teenagers in a confusing world of free choice.

Since I was young, I have always had a close and trustworthy relationship with my parents. I always tell them what is going on in my life; I keep them up to date concerning relationships with my friends, school, and feelings. We have lengthy conversations at dinner in which we tell each other about our days. These discussions help me feel at ease explaining what is going on in my life. When I run into trouble, they are there to support me and give me advice. However, I recently realized that some of my friends do not have such strong relationships with their parents: when they find themselves in tricky situations, they do not have anyone to turn to. Lacking beneficial and essential advice, my friends often only make their problems worse.

As much as teenagers hate to hear this, family time should always be a top priority. Busy lives, involving rushing from after-school activities to the doctor to Hebrew high school leaves little free time. However, spending free time with family is beneficial and essential to teenagers who lack knowledge about growing up and making the right decisions.

My friend Rachel, for example, spends very little time with her parents. She eats dinner with them, but other than that they are very much excluded from her life. They do not force her to go out to eat with them, nor to go to the Kimmel Center for concerts, nor to stay at the table long enough to discuss how her day went. In addition, her parents are extremely lenient with her curfew, her boundaries, and her schoolwork. They have not taught her morals or good values to follow for the rest of her life, which is causing her to make poor decisions for herself.

Like most other parents, Rachel?s parents probably perceived teen hostility as a sign to back off, but in her case they backed off completely. Rachel?s parents are also always busy; she often tells me they are off at parties, or come home from work late, or are on frequent business trips. Hence, they don?t have much time to spend with her, but they also do not exactly make time for her either. If they realized something was wrong in their daughter?s life, I am sure they would not choose to go to a party.

The distance between Rachel and her parents coincided with the appearance of serious problems. She rarely tells them the truth; in fact, she began lying to them in her freshman year. Her parents are unaware of the fact that she has been doing drugs since ninth grade, that she drinks alcohol, that she has stolen from classmates. They do not know where she goes when she comes back late on weekend nights and do not realize that their daughter hangs out with the "wrong crowd" of friends, that she has failed in a number of classes.

During certain periods of their child?s life, parents have to adjust their focus from training to play nicely with friends to the pre-teen years of not complaining about everything, to the teen years about morals and future choices. Rachel?s parents missed this last adjustment. When I first met Rachel, her personality was nothing like it is now. Age can change people, but it was the lack of parenting that converted Rachel from an adventurous shopping-crazy middle-schooler to a poor-decision-making druggie. If she had learned right and wrong earlier from her parents, she would be able to make the correct choices for herself now. I learned from my parents since I was young to avoid drugs. I know from their stories that drugs can kill, that stealing is not only illegal but also flat out wrong, and that lying will almost never bring benefits. These are simple things to me; these are rational ideas that have been engrained in my brain so much that whenever I hear that someone has done drugs, I wonder why they would ever do something so idiotic. Consequently, hearing Rachel tell me she smoked weed twenty minutes before is exceptionally hard for me to handle. I know it is a dangerous drug, but how can I convince her of this? She was never told when she was younger, so why would she believe it now?

Parents always need to step into their children?s lives. All parents need to learn, even before their child is born, what to expect in upcoming years, and they need to be ready to handle any hurdles that may arise. Knowledgeable parents with experience and beneficial advice strongly influence their children. Had my friend?s parents taught her proper values and lessons earlier, she would not be making the same choices for herself today.

For anyone in a situation like Rachel?s, getting help from parents is still possible. Your parents will love you no matter what; they will most likely love you even more if you gather up the courage to admit to having problems that you need them to help you solve. I can only wish that someday Rachel?s parents will realize something is wrong and help change her life for the better, and that parents like hers will take more of a role in their children?s lives to teach them values at an early age which will guide them for the rest of their lives.

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