We already know what we’d tell our teen selves if given the chance, but what about things we wish our parents had told us during our teen years? While our parents may have said a lot during those years, there’s also plenty they left out. We polled our favorite Raging Feminists to find out what they wish they would have heard from their parents when they were a teen.
What do you wish your parent had told you when you were a teen?
“I wish my parents had told me… anything? That I was smart. That I was valuable. That I didn’t have to try so hard to prove myself or to impress people. That boys and men were garbage and not to be trusted? (JK.) Honestly, my folks subscribed to a taciturn, sink-or-swim parenting mentality that involved letting me work things out on my own, and in retrospect, I think I made a lot of questionable choices because I was so anxious and because (despite a lot of bravado) I didn’t really believe in myself. Though it’s certainly possible that I wouldn’t have listened at the time, I think a little supportive encouragement would have gone a long way with me.” — Jen Selk
“Every friendship has a season, and it is acceptable to let certain friends go.” — Rudri Bhatt Patel
“‘I’m sorry. I was wrong.’ Literally ever. Part of the reason I had such trouble just openly accepting responsibility and showing contrition for so many years, I realized, was that I’d never seen it done in my home, and I’d never been directly shown how much relief it brings to the injured party. It’s so, so, so incredibly important to model apology for kids, to show them how it’s done by actually just apologizing to them directly and specifically when we, as parents, screw up in a way that harms or upsets them.” — Seranine Elliot
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“The truth.” — Meg Galipault
“My mother never went to therapy, she just used me as her de facto psychologist, starting from before I was even in first grade. I was 8 years old when I told my father it was time for him to move out, because I was the only ‘adult’ in that apartment, and I was 9 when he and my mother made me negotiate the terms of their divorce. What do I wish either of my parents told me as a kid? ‘Your needs matter. You get to be a kid. You are not responsible for your parents’ emotions — and no matter what you do or say, you can never change us. We will never change. We will never be what you need. So, be what you need for yourself. And don’t look back.’ Hell, I’d love it if either one of them acknowledged any of that NOW.” — Jennifer Pozner
“Do not make less of yourself in an attempt to be pleasing for romantic company. That way lies misery in the long term.” — Kat Tanaka Okopnik
“I wish I’d been told never to doubt myself, to trust myself and follow my instincts and to be myself entirely, no matter who said I was obnoxious, loud or opinionated. I wish I’d been told to take my opinions even more seriously and [to] act upon those opinions without fear.” — Hani Yousuf
“When I was 13, I wish my dad said this: ‘Hi, Katharine! We haven’t spoken in a few years, because after the divorce I started a new life without you. It’s because I was in a lot of pain. Adulting, AMIRITE? I want you to know it wasn’t your fault, even if I put the blame on you, your sister, your mom, President Reagan… basically everyone but me. But just because I made you feel unlovable, there are people out there you can trust with your heart. Until then, you may wanna start hitting therapy like, yesterday.'” — Katharine
“My parents should have explained more carefully that being a woman doesn’t entail people respecting you. It just doesn’t, not in the world we live in. And I wish they’d explained, in concrete detail, how to behave to assert your right to respect. That would have saved me 20 years of therapy.” — Laura Stokes
“Parents are not always right, and it is more important to be compassionate than to be correct.” — Amanda Rose Adams
“I wish they were honest about whether or not they were, and are, happy. And what happiness means for them. I think families are often so entrenched in what needs to happen, and how everything appears, that the real emotion is often buried or ignored. Traversing happiness, and figuring out how to be happy, is difficult when those around aren’t honest, and especially as an adult woman now, it’s even harder with societal pressures around you.” — Joanna C. Valente
“It’s more that I wish they HADN’T told me bisexuality doesn’t exist. It left me confused well into my 20s.” — Anonymous
“‘I know that lying is part of growing up, and it’s OK. I still trust you.’ This, at 13, would have saved us 10 years of turmoil.” — Lisa Schamess
“This, and every moment for the next five years, is not forever, it just feels that way. Love yourself more, and so much good will follow. You deserve to be treated with respect in all relationships. Your beauty is so unique it simply cannot be compared to others. Those who don’t like you taking up space in this world are the reason you must take up space. NEVER FORGET TO SHOUT THE TRUTH, EVEN WHEN YOU ARE AFRAID.” — Alex Blank Millard
“What do I wish my mum had told me as a teen?
“‘No, dear. You’re not bleeding to death. That really is how much blood there’s going to be every time you have a period. And yes, the clots are normal.
“‘Do things you love, every day. Those are the things that’ll get you through the rough times.
“‘Raising kids is hard. It’s the hardest thing you’ll ever do, and you’ll feel like you’re doing it wrong most of the time. When they’re teenagers, they’ll also feel like you’re doing it wrong. Just do the best you can and love them through it all.
“‘I may not approve of your behavior, I may be disappointed by your choices, but I will never be disappointed in you.’” — Asha Rajan
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