First of all, you must always remember to treat your parents like children. That’s all they are, really – tall children in suit jackets with electric bills to pay. They have dreams and regrets, friends and enemies, and even the occasional acne outbreak. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Of course it does. You’ve done all of that before. So treat your parents like you would treat your closest friends: with patience, sensitivity, and plenty of well-timed sarcasm.
At some point, right around the time when you get your braces removed, your parents will start pretending that they control your life. Don’t panic! They’re creating the illusion of power to reassure themselves that your life with them is far from over. You appreciate it, sure. But let’s be honest – you’re leaving home as soon as possible. So for now, don’t go to those parties. Don’t date that boy. Pass your parents the metaphorical reins and enjoy the ride.
In your teen years, your parents will go out of their way to pick fights with you. “You need to work harder!” they’ll say. “That shirt is too short!” “Those shoes look ridiculous!” These are all common comments that can spark lectures. Don’t let the tension bother you. If you stay level-headed, they’ll calm down quickly and listen to your reasonable approach to the issue. Try not to let their lack of fashion sense frustrate you; if you fight back, you’ve lost the battle.
As you grow older, make sure you give your parents time to experiment with their newfound independence. They will feel lost without a baby to carry around, without spills to clean up or Legos to step on. So encourage them to go out with friends. Let them go to bars and drive over the speed limit (not at the same time, of course; make sure they understand the importance of a designated driver). Don’t worry if they seem distant; the process of self-discovery can be a painful one.
If you find yourself drifting too far from your parents, it can be helpful to look for the answer in yourself. Adults tend to take cues from their kids when it comes to the modern world. You should become a role model for them. Be strong, passionate, and optimistic. Don’t be too modest; if you aren’t proud of yourself, they won’t be either. (They’ll say they are, but keep in mind that you wrote to Santa until you were 10 years old.)
As we all know, there is a vital aspect of modern life that our generation understands best: technology. When your parents ask for help, teach them patiently. Is Mom having Facebook trouble? Set her up on Instagram. Show her your favorite filters. Teach her how to hashtag. You’ll know you’re doing things right when the caretaking comes full circle. Remember: your parents nursed you for the first 18 years of your life, but as soon as you leave home, the tables will turn and you’ll find yourself nursing them.
Your parents, as mentioned before, are nothing but children playing an elaborate game of dress up. Although they seemed mature and all-knowing when you were little, you now know that they’re just as lost in the world as you are. They run home from work every night in the hopes of finding their own mother waiting with outstretched arms and chocolate chip cookies, but their parents are far away, weary and wilting in their own confusion. And don’t worry – in 30 years, you’ll be doing the same thing. Tread carefully, and try not to grow up too fast – for their sake.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.