WHY THIS BOOK
In the words of our readers and contributors.
"What parents aren't told by their own children, they should hear from us, the kids in the book. I jumped al the chance to help with this project. I worked on it because it seemed tragic to me that so many teenagers, who more than likely told their parents they were "fine," had poured out their hearts to someone else. Since they had the courage to speak their true thoughts, I was willing to help them be heard on an even broader scale. Everyone should be heard, even moody teenagers who walk in the door silently, run up to their rooms, and slam the door: Adults often forget the pressure society puts on teens to figure out who they are, and the anxiety that accompanies trying to have such an epiphany before making more than a handful of decisions on their own. I wanted to help with This project because I realized that teenagers have to communicate with parents a little better. We need to help them listen to us. I think that maybe parents trivialize things that are important to us because they don't even know what they are. We are immersed in a culture that parents don't understand. Although well-intentioned parents assume that teaching good values can protect their children from making bad choices, teens today exist in an increasingly dangerous world with total mobility and no judgment. Parents, here are real kids telling you what you should probably be hearing from your own children. They are telling you what they wish you knew - and even giving you advice on how you can help. As someone who survived adolescence unscathed, I attribute this accomplishment to the generosity of the adults that gave me their time and attention as I attempted to sort out the world.”
Student, Age 16
How are parents to know the details of their teens' lives? I participated in this project because I know firsthand that parents should be reading these words. Some of the pages that follow that might have been written by your child) give older generations a sense of what it is like to be an adolescent in current times. For parents, reading the words of today's youth is like listening in on our conversations and having the opportunity to know some of the things that are on our minds, it's like a universal diary key to understanding a little about our lives. Hopefully, some parents will read my words and discuss them with their child. Then more families might not be saying: 'If only we had known..The reality of parent-teen interactions today is that there are no distinct rules that govern what is normal and what is dangerous. Many parents search for the universal key to understanding, which turns out not to exist, and thus they are unable to hear their child's sometimes silent call for help. I heard the story of a girl who committed suicide.
One evening my family had the opportunity to meet her family. We learned that she was a kind and intelligent person, who still was unsatisfied enough with herself to take her own life. I, too, had many things going for me but I also was really stressed. As we talked with this other family, it became clear to my parents that young adult stress is a very serious issue. Later that evening, my mother repeated the phrase that the other parents used in talking about their daughter, 'If only someone had known…’In addition to what you are reading on this page, I wrote something else in the book. At the time I wrote it I did not realize the implications of putting down my thoughts on paper. But maybe my writing will help some parent help their own child."
Student, Age 17
My boyfriend asked me why I would help with this book when I wasn't being paid for it. He completely understood when I explained my reasoning: because I wish my mom and dad had a book on how to listen to me when I was a teenager: I'm a few years out of my teenage-hood, but I do remember how frustrating it was to try to explain my life to someone and not be able to finish or clarify or re-explain my thoughts and feelings. I have a 17-year-old brother and catch myself brushing off his concerns and worries as needless and exaggerated. Teenagers rarely have life-or-death problems, right? Well, unfortunately, teenagers are having more responsibilities and pressures (college, financial aid, sex, depression, divorced-parent-wars, etc.) put on their shoulders al younger ages so previously managed problems can become life threatening. Ask any teenager: II bet they know someone who has talked about suicide or is on anti-depressants. The battle between teenagers and adults has been waged since "teenager" was first coined. The difference now is we have the "me” generation of parents raising the“me" generation of teenagers, and both think they know it all.
Teenagers need to be taught and guided to be good adults, but the only way to do so is to first understand who they are as individuals, who they want to be and how they want to get there. And how do we do that? Listen. Parents, you have to listen. Most of the time, there is nothing you can do excepl give your son or daughter a hug and say you understand, share a similar story, and reassure her things will work out. I spent years teaching myself that the world would not end if I made a mistake. It resulted in a tattoo of the sun on my hip, and each morning as I get dressed I remind myself, No matter what happens today the sun will still rise tomorrow."
Kimberly Weisensee Brown