Getting Parents to Focus On More than Grades or ScoresTeens
This article was written by the former chair of our Youth Advisory Board, Sarah Hinstorff, with contributions by Youth Advisory Board members Kerri Heard and Ranen Miao.
Influence What Your Parents Focus On
Your parents don’t know everything about you. They only know what you tell them or what they directly witness. During adolescence it is common for the focus to be put on your grades or scores, because they see your report cards and come to your games. This may cause you to feel pressure to perform. Or to try to be perfect (if there really is such a thing). To get out of this pattern of communication, lead your conversations towards the things you care about or want to talk about. Sports. Favorite TV shows. Crushes. Your hopes for the future. Your concerns or fears. Let them know you are a lot more than just your grades or scores. You have the ability to influence your relationship with your parents. Shift the focus and help your parents get to know the real you.
It is natural for your relationship with your parents to change as you get older. As you begin to confront new obstacles or challenges, your relationship will evolve. You may begin to depend on your parents and friends for different things. This transition takes work. But, just because your friends may play a greater role doesn’t mean you need to sacrifice your relationship with your parents.
Your parents can be a valuable resource for you. They may share some advice that helps you make a difficult decision. They can be a source of comfort when things aren’t going so great. They may help make a job connection. They could make an important social introduction. Make sure they know that they are welcome to know what matters to you.
You are in control of how much your parents have access to your personal life. If you worry your parents obsess over your scores or know little about you besides your grades, take the initiative to extend the boundaries of your relationship. Confide in your parents to give them insight into your world, beyond school or the playing field.
Your Parents Have Life Experience
Parents have the benefit of life experience that friends your own age can’t offer. Opening up to your parents allows them to reveal more of their personal lives and experiences to you. Just as it can sometimes feel like they see you only in your role as a student,, they may feel the same way about their role as a parent. It is good for them when you see them as full people, with lives outside of parenting. Don’t forget that they had lives before you came along! And lives outside of the home. Learn about them.
Get to know your parents. An open relationship demands give and take. Ask your parents about their childhood and you’ll likely find some similarities to explore (or some awkward memories to laugh about!). And if you spend the time opening up to your parents about topics other than grades and the score of your games or results of your performances, you’re likely to discover they’ll be more willing to talk about their own realities. Here’s a chance for you to model what you want to hear and learn about from them.
The Need for Transparency
Allowing for some transparency in your life is the first step towards a better relationship with your parents. Let them into your world. Your school will automatically send your grades home. And they might show up at your games or performances. If you want your parents to show interest in other parts of your life, share with them and open the conversation. They won’t know what you’re dealing with, unless you tell them.
Your parents want what’s best for you and want to get to know you. They just might not know how. Invite them to understand the parts of your experience you want them to see. Let them in.
Thoughts From Members of the Youth Advisory Board
“I know sometimes we’re limited in what we tell our parents because we feel weird sharing it with them, so we’ll share it with our friends instead. This is fine and more than expected. But when you’re going back and forth about whether you should tell your parents, remember that your parents were once teenagers – so most of what you’re experiencing, they have already gone through.”
“In helping me work through my own problems, my mom taught me much of what she had learned from life. She shared with me her life stories, and taught me how she survived through the traumas of her high school life — everything from studying to heartbreak, and from economic struggles to social ones. When you open up to someone, they become more inclined to open up to you as well.”