Growing up, our mothers are our world. Someone we go to in times of joy. Someone we look up to for wisdom and comfort. Someone we cry to in times of need. Our safe space.
Sadly, when it comes to our teenage years, things somehow change. Why do we suddenly feel that we can’t approach and talk to our mothers? When did the barrier appear? What can be done to repair the relationship?
These are some things we wish we could tell our mums:
1. I don’t feel like I’m good enough
You say: “What did your friends get in the exam? Why didn’t you score as high as them?”
We think: “I’ve been so stressed out with this exam. I really tried my best to get good grades.”
Sometimes, parents make us feel that nothing else matters but getting good grades when it comes to school assessments. We understand the importance of this; however, it is also important to recognise the effort that we put in and realise our different strengths and capabilities as individuals. Constantly comparing ourselves to others is toxic to our self-esteem, and could even lead to anxiety and depression.
Instead, you could try to focus on what we might be good at (whether it is in sports or science) and coach us to improve on our weaknesses. A simple “I am proud of you; you tried your best” would make our day 10 times better.
2. Social media is life
You say: “Can you not be on your phone all the time!”
We think: “Part of my life is on social media. My phone is an extension of me.”
Our mothers never grew up with social media. If they had a bad day with someone at school, they never had to come home and face it. For us, that ‘threat’ will constantly be there – not only for the people at school to see, but the entire world.
Whether we like it or not, social media is here to stay. It has changed the way we communicate with each other and the way we live our lives. Parents need to acknowledge and understand this.
The amount of information we are exposed to and the pressure to keep on-trend can be unrelenting and take a severe toll on our mental health. Putting parental controls, limiting our phone time, or even secretly stalking our profiles might help in some ways, but you won’t be able to shield us forever. What is more important is to guide us to make the right decisions for ourselves.
3. My heartbreak matters
You say: “Don’t think about boyfriends now. Just focus on your studies.”
We think: “I have very strong feelings for that person in my class. I really can’t help it.”
When we reach our teenage years, we often experience overwhelming emotions for our peers that we have not felt before. It can be a very confusing (and even scary!) time for us, on top of dealing with all the changes we are going through physically and intellectually. As vulnerable and new as we are to these situations, having a role model such as our mothers would be tremendously helpful in navigating through these uncharted territories. Don’t just brush us off or tell us “I told you so” or “It’s just puppy love” when we get our heart broken. Sometimes it can really feel like the end of the world! We would really like to come to you for comfort and to hear us out without judgement.
We don’t need to hear the details of your past relationships (eww), but perhaps we could start with having conversations about feelings, friendships and family relationships? This could help us feel more comfortable talking about the heavier stuff.
You say: “You are too young!”
We think: “There’s so much I’m curious to know about sex.”
Despite how awkward this topic may be, or whatever cultural or religious beliefs our families might have, sex education is an important conversation that needs to take place. Best believe we would rather learn about these things at home than being exposed to it only in school, through friends or the internet.
Educating us about sex won’t make us want to go ahead and do it. Instead, it would make us feel more secure and confident in deciding what to do when the time comes, and whether we are mature enough to handle what comes with it.
My relationship with my mother
As teenagers, we tend to mirror our environment and interact better with people who understand and acknowledge our opinions with validation. Growing up, I was fortunate that my mother has never made me feel hidden. On the contrary, she’s always been my number one supporter. She is the first person I say anything to.
I do agree that parenting teenagers in this day and age can be complicated. Nonetheless, I believe mothers need to be more proactive in making their children feel heard. When it comes to taboo subjects, overprotectiveness is a natural reflex that parents immediately gravitate towards. However, it is essential to always keep the communication lines open and to see things from our perspective. After all, in times of need, I’m sure you want your child’s first reaction to be “I need to tell my mum.”
And these are some of the things I wish I could tell mothers out there.
By Raeleen Ariff
Raeleen is a 16-year-old teen spending her break sleeping, watching Netflix, baking and writing, before adventuring into her college years. She can also get very grumpy in the mornings.