What Teens Wish Their Parents Knew

Posted on November 16th, 2017

The relationship between parents and their teens is comprised of a delicate balance. Both want to have a good relationship, but they often go about it in different ways. I wanted to help bridge the gap and improve the relationships between parents and teens, so I talked to students to find out directly from them what they wished their parents knew.


I asked students questions about the topics in which they wish their parents gave them more guidance. The overwhelming response I received was that teens want help learning to support themselves and live independently. This makes sense, because we sometimes unintentionally cater to our teens, especially here in the Silicon Valley.

Some 13 to 14-year-old students shared that they would like guidance on various jobs and careers. After deviating from the expectation of attending college, an 18-year-old stated that he would like to learn how to support himself out of the house. He had contemplated various career paths, each with the generous salaries and associated lifestyles that he had witnessed growing up in the Silicon Valley; however, he did not understand that these salaries would not be handed to him right out of the gate. He wished that he learned more about what things would be like in the early years of employment and how to handle rejection from his first-choice employers.

Things don’t always fall in line with the glamorous life that society portrays – this can be a rude awakening for someone growing up in Silicon Valley. These incidents can lead to embarrassment, disappointment, and lowered self-esteem. Are we doing a good job of pointing out examples of privileges that exist in our daily lives? Or what about the various definitions and often skewed concept of “success?” Let’s make sure we talk about these things with our teens.


I also talked to students about trust. All of them made clear how much it means to them to feel trusted. Most students felt that their parents believed in them and that they forgave them for their mistakes; however, many of the students felt that their parents did not really trust them.

Family members are the closest people to teens, and when teens feel like their family doesn’t trust them, it severely impacts their confidence and self-esteem. In asking students about trust, it seems that there is more to the story than parents conveying the message that they forgave and believed in their children. Teens felt like their parents forgave them, but also continued to hold the past against them. It is important to make sure the messages we speak coincide with our behavior. It can be difficult to demonstrate trust after your teen has made mistakes, but it is important for our teens that we continue to try.

It is critical that our children know that we believe in them. At a recent Stanford panel, it was stated that studies have shown that there is a positive correlation between college acceptance rates and children who believe they have met the expectations of their parents.

Lastly, when asked if the students would benefit from hearing their parents express their struggles and mistakes on a day-to-day basis, the students stated that they either wished it would happen or that they already really appreciate those moments. It’s important to remember that as role models, we can express humility. As a football coach once explained to me, “A captain must position himself far enough away to lead, but remain close enough to relate to the struggle.”

Parents will always want what’s best for their teens, and often the path to success and happiness looks very different for their teens then it did for them. It can get complicated, but by placing trust in your teens and teaching them to be self-sufficient, you can find ways to connect your teens’ wants and needs with your own desires and values.

* * * * * *

* * * * * *


Would you like additional guidance in this area? Teen Therapy Center provides individual teen therapy, family therapy, group therapy, parent support counseling, and in-home teen and family coaching 7 days a week, including afternoons, evenings, and weekends. For more information, contact us at 408.389.3538.