The Letter Your Teenager Wishes He Could Write You

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If you’ve got a teenager, then you absolutely have to read this amazing post by Gretchen Schmelzer, PhD. It will give you a whole new appreciation for what it’s like to be a teen today, the help they want to ask for, and the fact that they’re struggling to figure things out, too. So read this – and give yourself some insight and a reservoir to wait – and to be patient with your teen. Because, they need you – and they need you to let them figure things out.

The Letter Your Teenager Wishes He Could Write You

Dear Parent:

This is the letter that I wish I could write.

This fight we are in right now. I need it. I need this fight. I can’t tell you this because I don’t have the language for it and it wouldn’t make sense anyway. But I need this fight. Badly. I need to hate you right now and I need you to survive it. I need you to survive my hating you and you hating me. I need this fight even though I hate it too. It doesn’t matter what this fight is even about: curfew, homework, laundry, my messy room, going out, staying in, leaving, not leaving, boyfriend, girlfriend, no friends, bad friends. It doesn’t matter. I need to fight you on it and I need you to fight me back.

I desperately need you to hold the other end of the rope. To hang on tightly while I thrash on the other end—while I find the handholds and footholds in this new world I feel like I am in. I used to know who I was, who you were, who we were. But right now I don’t. Right now I am looking for my edges and I can sometimes only find them when I am pulling on you. When I push everything I used to know to its edge. Then I feel like I exist and for a minute I can breathe. I know you long for the sweeter kid that I was. I know this because I long for that kid too, and some of that longing is what is so painful for me right now.

I need this fight and I need to see that no matter how bad or big my feelings are—they won’t destroy you or me. I need you to love me even at my worst, even when it looks like I don’t love you. I need you to love yourself and me for the both of us right now. I know it sucks to be disliked and labeled the bad guy. I feel the same way on the inside, but I need you to tolerate it and get other grownups to help you. Because I can’t right now. If you want to get all of your grown-up friends together and have a ‘surviving-your-teenager-support-group-rage-fest’ that’s fine with me. Or talk about me behind my back–I don’t care. Just don’t give up on me. Don’t give up on this fight. I need it.

This is the fight that will teach me that my shadow is not bigger than my light. This is the fight that will teach me that bad feelings don’t mean the end of a relationship. This is the fight that will teach me how to listen to myself, even when it might disappoint others.

And this particular fight will end. Like any storm, it will blow over. And I will forget and you will forget. And then it will come back. And I will need you to hang on to the rope again. I will need this over and over for years.

I know there is nothing inherently satisfying in this job for you. I know I will likely never thank you for it or even acknowledge your side of it. In fact I will probably criticize you for all this hard work. It will seem like nothing you do will be enough. And yet, I am relying entirely on your ability to stay in this fight. No matter how much I argue. No matter how much I sulk. No matter how silent I get.

Please hang on to the other end of the rope. And know that you are doing the most important job that anyone could possibly be doing for me right now.

Love, Your Teenager

***

This post originally appeared on GretchenSchmelzer.com

Gretchen Schmelzer, PhD is a licensed psychologist, trained as a Harvard Medical School Fellow. She is a trauma survivor, who has worked for twenty-five years with the complex issues of trauma, integration and behavior change across every level of system from individuals, to groups, to large systems and countries, including her role as the expert consultant for documentary film The Silence which aired on April 19, 2011 on Frontline regarding priest sexual abuse in a Native Alaskan Village to ensure adequate resources for viewers and for proper follow on support for trauma survivors. She is the founder and editor of The Trail Guide, a web-mag featured on www.gretchenschmelzer.com (formerly www.emotionalgeographic.com) dedicated to healing repeated trauma. Her book Journey Through Trauma will be out in February 2018 through Penguin Random House.

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22 COMMENTS

  1. Oh how I wish I could anonymously send this to our daughter and her husband. They have forgotten how much all of their parents did for them when they should of written this letter. They have a zero tolerance policy for their own son who needs them now more than ever. Our hearts are breaking at their abandonment and because of the ultimatums they are setting for us. The damage being done to everyone may never be able to be repaired in my dear husbands lifetime. Grandparents should not have to choose between a child and a grandchild. Thank you for this post. I sincerely hope it helps others who still have choices.

    • Read what you wrote. Everything is about you. Kids are blessings and nothing you said reflected on the joy of raising your child. You are dogging on your daughter on social media, attacking how she and her husband choose to live and raise their own son. I love parents, like yourself, who act like they played no role in how their child turned out. It has everything to do with how you raised your daughter, so don’t be so quick to criticize her parenting, or life choices. I am certain she could easily do the same about you. Perhaps reflect on what you did to make things the way they are, and maybe you’ll have a better relationship with her and her family.

    • Parents commenting about how awful their kids are need to reflect on themselves, being the one who raised them. It’s funny to me when parents act like they played no part in how their child behaves, choices the make, how they turn out later in life, etc. You are a big reason they are as they are, good or bad.
      Also, it is a privilege to be a parent and many would gladly take your place. I have to wonder if this woman with a PHD ever spoke with a child or raised her own. No kids love fighting with their parents and most can be avoided if you are open minded and actually care to get to know your child. Not a lot of parents put down their phones, turn off the tv and just talk to their children. That could be part of the reason for such a chaotic relationship, if this article is actually how things are in your home. Adults can learn too, bot just young people. Kids are great teachers. If you take the time, you can have a pretty kickass relationship with your kids- nothing as this PHD lady describes.

  2. Thank you! I swear to you, all of this happened this week with me and my son! I was so awful and tired and wondered who this new boy was in my home. Thankfully I came to my senses, again. And apologized, again. And gave love notes again. So glad to know these feelings aren’t as crazy as I thought.

  3. Hebrews 2:13 And again I will put my trust in Him, and again Behold, Again, I and the children God hath given me.
    Being the Mother of four beautiful children, and spending a special part of my life working with many other folks children, I can surely relate to the validity of this article. Thank you, my Kellie, my oldest daughter with whom I now live, along with two teenaged grand kids, for posting this article.
    Yes, for sure there are many times when the battle lines are drawn, and often tears are shed, but Love stands strong. As the years go by, I see value of those many confrontations, both for my kids, and their parents. Today, having seven living grand kids and one precious angel with The Lord, I see that love and deep beliefs in The Lord have taken my family through many confrontations, and though there have been lots of ‘stumbling stones’, we see the victories far outnumber the ‘rough spots’.
    Through tears, n’ snot…ruffled feathers, and broken promises, we are a close family, with many success stories of days gone by. Did we have all the answers as parents, gracious no!… But, love and grace, and faith enabled our kids, and grand kids to be loving, real parents…able to hear and understand life’s challenges, and give our thoughts, and advice…then to watch our kids dive head first into parenting, and go through many of the same things we did in parenting them….The results…beautiful families, filed with trust, love, and understanding, that not one of us is perfect….And yet all of us are loved, and live day to day, thankful for the privilege of family and our God, that love us no matter what.

  4. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
    My daughter is 18 and will be in college next fall, so the moments together seem so precious. When we have arguments, I wish we could just get back to love because it’s not how I want her to think of time at home. This letter truly renews me!
    I do have a question, also. There are only some arguments I feel are worth engaging in. Are you suggesting I join more of the bickering I’m invited to?

  5. Thank you! My best friend forwarded this wonderful article that hit every point I am going through right now. It’s nice to know it’s a norm but it still hurts so deeply, the worry and anxiety is overwhelming at times. I pray this phase passes quick because it sure is hard letting go. God Bless all those going through this…
    Breath ( I am trying)

  6. Thank you so much for this. I sent this to my sister who was struggling with her teenage foster child who she loves dearly but all of the teen parent stuff is very new to both of them. Your words are perfect- thank you!

  7. I could not have read anything more perfect at the most perfect time.

    Thank you SO VERY MUCH for the reminder to never give up om my son, for the reminder that even though at sixteen while he towers over me, he’s still quite young and isn’t yet capable of thinking clearly or expressing himself the way an adult can. I was honestly beginning to think he hated me; I was heartbroken and lost. And quite honestly, growing very angry and ready to give up.
    But now I’ll hold my end of the rope as tight as I can!!!

  8. Thank you so much for sharing this letter.

    I continue to come back to it while parenting my 16 year old daughter. I struggle with believing the cause of our arguments and battles are related simply to her bring a teen or having to do with additional factors (ie mental health issues, anger issues, drug experimentation, negative peer influences etc). However, perhaps at the end of the day, the cause of the battles is less significant than the reason to hang in there and empathize with our teens being unable to always self regulate and articulate what they’re going through and to trust the process.

    Of course it is not always easy to do the latter as the conflicts and fights are so challenging at times. Painful all around.

    This letter helps ground me when times are difficult in our relationship. Of course, I wish the world would care to take things highlighted in the letter into perpestive when families with teens go through it.

    I do wish all teens and their families healing, happiness, love, and forgiveness. I wish for my daughter to regain her confidence and good health (including mental health) and i wish for her to reconnect with her authentic self and her values, family, passions, gifts, art’s community and goals. I miss her. I miss the trusting, fun, easy going, and respectful relationship that we we were blessed with and strengthened over time.

    I do pray things become as they were when we were a mother daughter team and our core beliefs and family values were the priority.

    We all have a responsibility to hold onto the rope and pick it up when the other struggles to do so.

    And that is what we all, in the battles, are being taught.

    With gratitude,
    P.

  9. Thank you for this. I am going to print it and keep it to refer back to. Our 15 year old put us through the ringer this spring, and it was so hard, and yet, I kept telling myself…he has to find his own way, in his own way, with the tools we give him. So, we just take it one day at a time, and do our best to keep him fed, well rested, and engaged. There are still moments, and hours and days but the years are flying by so quickly, and I know he will struggle but it is exactly what he needs to do, and I can’t make it easier, less hurtful, or even non-existent. I can love him and I can pray for him, and I can give him a smile, and a hug, and my heart everyday.

  10. This is so beautifully written.It has moved me deeply. I shared the article with my daughter and my granddaughter. Thank you.

  11. This article is so true. I had some really rough years with two of my children. I had one very good child. I told my daughter that if it wasn’t for my middle child I would think I really sucked as a parent! You have to be stronger than they are, because they can really beat you down. I told them, “I don’t care if you hate me now. It’s better than hating me when you are an adult, because I didn’t do my job!” Guess, what? My husband and I actually survived these brutal years and my adult children thank us today for doing so. Hang in there!

  12. I can relate.We have five grown children who are all amazing and love each other and are very close.They each were the leaders of their own pier group as teens and each one of them today is married with children of their own and are all successful as adults. My three daughters all told me they hated me at 14 but we all survived it. My oldest son however (54) still has underlying issues with our relationship. he recently threatened to “punch my teeth out” in a fit of rage ( he has a short fuse and something I said must have set him off}.Now I’m certain he would never raise hand to me ,but I’m very concerned about his mental state.so all I can do at this point is pray for him and be careful not to say anything in his company that will be offensive….

    • At this age, he needs professional help to deal with his anger and other issues. Perhaps you could suggest he and you go to counseling together to work on your relationship. If that doesn’t work, seems you need to set some firm boundaries rather than always walking on eggshells around him because by doing that you are giving in to his bullying and control over you. Stand up for what is right, don’t be a doormat to a 54-year-old who obviously needs more help than you can give him. Tell him if he speaks to you in that manner, he must leave your home or presence immediately and he’s welcome to return when he can speak to you and treat you with respect. Make it happen and be consistent about it.

  13. The day I read this, we had just had a big fight with our 16 year old son the night before. I felt like it was meant for me. It actually made me cry. I shared it with my husband and he said he would never let go of that rope!

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