Parents, Trying to Understand


I think that most people with teenage children will agree that they can be difficult to communicate with and I’ve found that sometimes, it’s hard to blame them for that reluctance.  We’re stupid, out of touch and think we know it all, while actually knowing next to nothing.  It’s been 28 years ( yes, you read that right ) since DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince ( whatever happened to that guy? ) released “Parents Just Don’t Understand” and it’s as true today as it was then.


parents just dont understand
Jive Records


We know nothing, at least not nearly as much as their friends do, the only ones that really understand them and what they are going through.  Other than to ask for rides, money, and food, there really is next to no benefit whatsoever to engaging us in conversation.  If told that their day was “good”, what other information do we really need? Their day was good.  They’ll be gone in another year or so anyway.

It would be easy to believe this.  To simply let them hide out in their filthy rooms, tapping away at little screens, living their lives as we live ours.  To trust that we’ve given them a strong enough foundation to handle themselves, that our relationship is strong enough for them to have no hesitation in asking for help if needed. To believe that they are “good.”

Easy, but in my opinion, in my experience, a mistake. I’ve stated many times that this isn’t a place where I give advice or where anybody in their right mind would come for parental guidance. There are things that I have learned however, and one of them is that for all the sarcasm at the beginning of this post, there really is a lot that we don’t know, that we don’t understand. Things that we won’t learn by texting upstairs when dinner is ready, that one day make us wonder how such obvious signs of trouble were missed.

It’s hard.  It’s hard to find the time, hard to fight through the shields they seem to automatically raise.  Hard to find some common interest that can be used as a wedge in the door they seem determined to keep closed.  A shared fandom of a sports team or musical act.  A television or book series to share. Harry Potter, Star Wars, the Boston Red Sox.  If they are more enthusiastic than you are, fake it.


bonding over buffalo
ready to eat


For us it’s been wings.  Weekend trips to different restaurants and eateries replacing the cinema as a more productive means of stimulating conversation.  Various sauces and flavors sampled as I try to establish this as a new tradition. A few hours away from home, her attention stealing little sister and the temptations of electronics.

It’s not enough, but it’s a start.  I still don’t know nearly as much as I would like to about what’s going on in her life, going on in her head. A parent still trying to understand.

But I know more than I did. There are several dozen more places that I have mapped out for us to try and with any luck I’ll continue to  pry that door open even further. If i have to make a few new holes in my belt to get this accomplished, that’s a price I’m willing to pay.


bonding over buffallo
Bonding over Buffalo



27 thoughts on “Parents, Trying to Understand”

  1. I like picking up my daughters from any event they attend whenever possible. That’s when they are the most talkative and excited. And they can’t escape from the car 🙂

  2. Will Smith and Jazzy Jeff are doing a few festivals if you fancy a trip down memory lane 🙂

    Totally agree with this. It’s so important to find common ground as that’s when they’ll open up and talk about stuff. Direct questions do not work!

  3. This is actually a really good idea. My teenager is often so busy with her social life/homework/netflix, but I can usually get her to hang out with me for food’s sake!

    Question of the hour: Why does Will Smith never age? Do you think he could be a vampire?

  4. I love this. As my eldest gets closer to moving on I am made more aware of the fact that time is short and I want to savour every moment even if he pushes me away sometimes. Mealtimes are sacrosanct in my house for pulling us together and talking and sharing our common ground is a TV programme called Come Dine With Me – we sit and watch it together whilst dinner is cooking and chat and laugh a lot. I will take whatever I can get. Look forward to hearing about the best restaurants! Thanks for joining us and congrats on being the top post last week. #TweensTeensBeyond

  5. My eldest is 12, and close to being a teen, I have actually just started reading a great book titled ‘Being 14’, by Madonna King and it is scary, but also amazing. It is a guide to helping parents understand better about their 14 year old daughters, very insightful. At the moment Aspen and I have a truly great relationship and she is very chatty and open and still has her bedroom door open. I am prepared that soon she may change, but hoping we can keep our bond strong. I worry maybe a little more about my ten year old daughter because she is so hard to read, and difficult to get to open up. We both share a love of books, so maybe I should set up an activity that us two can share based on that. Really great post!

    1. I know lots of parents of teenagers that never went through any of the things we did. Its just so hard to see problems coming sometimes. Joining a book club or activity at a library sounds like a great idea

  6. Absolutely spot on as always. I seem to be the one who has to make most effort and travel the highest mileage to keep communication open but I keep slogging away at it – learning to handle rejection as I go! We have managed to find some series on Netflix that we all watch and whilst it may not totally be to my taste I can tolerate it in the interests of family unity. Surfing is another common area but a bit seasonal in Wales!! Thanks so much for sharing with us at #TweensTeensBeyond

    1. Thanks for reading Sharon. I find myself watching and listening to a lot of things that aren’t really my taste. Comes with the job, I guess

  7. And for as long as you keep on trying Jeremy, there will always be a way in! If wings and sauces are the only way, bring it on. Thanks for sharing with us at #tweensteensbeyond

  8. Loving this post Jeremy I remember so clearly being told numerous times you know dad and as you say they are actually right I’m not a teenager anymore. For me my oldest is now 21 and we have completly different sensible conversations. Mad that I am in a few years time I will be doing it all again haha! Maybe I will get right this time not! Great read mate #teenstweenandbeyond

  9. I think in general, teens are more willing to share details when they aren’t pressed into it. Like when a conversation just moves naturally in a particular direction, they find themselves opening up and sharing their thoughts a bit more than when directly asked something.
    Thanks for linking up to #AnythingGoes 🙂

  10. the teen and i bonded over easter with flat pack furniture and no wifi, car journeys to and from school at the start and end of the boarding term are also a good time for us


    1. car rides work sometimes for us too. I just keep pestering her until she takes her ear buds out and talks to me

  11. The bond I have with my little boy is something that I hope I will always have. The thought of him growing up scares me even though it’s ineveitable. I hope he talks to me as much then as he does now. Good luck with your endeavours! Thanks so much for linking up to #TriumphantTales, we’d love to have you back next week 🙂

  12. Being a teenager is hard, but your attempts will not go unnoticed – even if its in years to come.
    When I was growing up my mum was so preoccupied with my little brother which she has admitted she regrets.
    Thank you for sharing your efforts with us at #TriumphantTales. I hope to see you tomorrow

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