Monday, November 17, 2008

GSA Monday Topic: What Do You Do When You Don't See Things The Way Your Parents Do?

How do you deal with believing different things than your parents?

How can you cope with feeling different from the people who are raising you?

What about when your Mom and Dad disagree with you?

This topic comes up in a variety of ways and questions for Teens - most recently, with a bunch of GSA-ers expressing their frustration that when it came to Same-Gender Marriage, their parents just "didn't get it" and "didn't understand."

That conflict, of being able to see your own beliefs as separate from your parents' beliefs, is a crucial part of being a Teenager - it's a crucial part of growing up into being a young adult.

I think a lot if it could be called
"How To Grow Into And Be Your Own Person."

If you never examine the beliefs your parents hold with a critical eye towards figuring out if it's what YOU believe, you'd simply be a little half-clone of each of your biological progenitors.

And often, the younger we are, the more closely we're allied with our parent's beliefs. If you asked a bunch of 7th graders if they supported McCain or Obama, and compared that with their parents' political leanings, I bet it would be more aligned than 12th graders and their parents' vote. Exit polls show that younger voters vote differently from older voters, and this is especially true in issues of civil rights in general and GAY rights in specific.

In the CNN exit polls, when it came to voting in the recent Prop 8 referendum on Same-Gender Marriage, 61% of 18-29 year olds voted against the ban. That's compared with around 45.5% of 30-64 year olds who voted against it. That means there's a lot of people who disagree with their parents on Same-Gender marriage.

It can be unbelievable frustrating when your parents don't see things the way you do. I guess so much of our early childhoods are spent learning what our parents like and don't like, what they believe and what they don't believe, and we just copy them at first. When we start to forge our own beliefs and opinions - especially about the "Big" issues, especially when it's deeply felt, it's hard when our beliefs don't jive with theirs.

And that can lead to some enormous emotionally pitched battles, where we try to argue and convince our parents to come around to OUR way of thinking. And, often, parents will try to argue and convince us to come back to THEIR way of thinking, just as angry and with as much feeling of 'betrayal' as we have inside us.


It's no big deal if my Dad's favorite dessert is Creme Brulee and mine is chocolate cake (hot, gooey, with ice cream, please...)

That's because I'm not judged for liking a different dessert. I'm not WRONG about liking chocolate cake - but when I was a Teenager, I was told I was WRONG for liking boys. And that led to a WHOLE LOT of conflict.

What's going on?

I think, as a culture, we fall into the trap of confusing love with approval.

Parents need to love their children unconditionally.

But often, if the parents don't approve of their kids' actions or opinions, there's a feeling of anger and what's projected is the subconscious message: "How can I love you when you're wrong on this?"

This is at the core of so much Teen-Parent conflict.

Parents need to let their kids know that their love is unconditional.

Kids need to understand that holding different beliefs doesn't make them unloveable, or bad sons or daughters. It just makes them normal teenagers, figuring out who they are as individuals, separate from their parents. In psycho-babble, it's called:


Ultimately, it's our ability to still say "I love you" to someone with whom we disagree that makes up the true bonds of family. It can frustrate the Hell out of us, but, at the end of the day, if we can keep the currency of love separate from the currency of approval, Teens can grow up with confidence to be the adults they're destined to become...

And parents can feel proud that they raised independent thinkers, that they gave them the confidence to be their authentic selves, and that they gave their children wings to fly and live out their own unique journies.

Perhaps it's even our ability to respect the rights of others to hold beliefs with which we disagree that makes up the true bonds of our society. (Though when one group's beliefs turns into action or law that impinges upon the rights of another group, respect is not called for. Then it's time for protests and rallies and fighting for the rights of the group who deserves equal respect!) (That's a link to "join the impact," national protests for Gay Rights!)

It's important to realize that the journey to be OURSELVES, by necessity, will take us down a different road than our parents - and that's a good thing.

That's evolution.

That's growing up.

What about you? What are the things you and your parents don't see eye-to-eye about?


Hayden Thorne said...

When I was a teenager, I was very conservative and quiet, happy to sit in the corner and read away my time. I didn't experience any conflict with my mom till I was in my early twenties (and onward).

1. I pulled myself away from the Catholic Church after feeling years and years of anger and frustration over their attitudes. My mom still asks me if I go to church and recently reminded me to get confirmed (I was never confirmed as a teenager). We get into slightly heated exchanges over that sometimes. I remain agnostic.

2. I'd go over the mess that was my wedding preparations, but it's still a pretty bitter memory for me. Anyway, that makes item of conflict number 2.

3. My choice of writing topics. *g* She constantly asks me why I write about gay kids and that I should choose something else. I know she has problems with gays and lesbians although she doesn't speak her thoughts.

We love each other, of course. Sometimes I do wonder if I disappointed her with the choices I've made with my life.

If my dad were alive, I'd be interested to know how he'd view the same three things. I lost him when I was fifteen.

Sarah Laurenson said...

Great post! My mom and I went a few rounds on the whole gay issue, but she remembers it differently than I do. She was also very good about still telling me she loved me no matter what. With my dad, he knew I was gay, but we never talked about it. I'm pretty sure he preferred it that way.

Kim Baise said...

Ohhh, I love those 3D glasses! Yes, the Journey to be Ourselves can sometimes be a long and strange road but well worth the walk away from home!

Tee said...

I'm an adult and should my mom be. But we haven't spoken for 5 months and I have resolved not to speak to her ever again. Why? Because she refuses to listen so why should I bother talking. She has no idea of 'who' I am and doesn't want to know. No unconditional love there so I give up after many many years of trying.

Lee Wind, M.Ed. said...

That is one of the hardest things to deal with, Charlie. Sometimes, relationships can improve over the years. Sometimes, much as we wish people would shift in their attitudes/actions, they don't. I wish you well, and hope you find some peace within about it. Often, there are other relationships we can form that can give us some of that mentoring/cheerleading/support/unconditional love that in an ideal world, parents provide.
Good luck and Namaste,

Unknown said...

My mom and I have different views on religion. She is raising me Catholic but I disagree with the values of the church. My mother insists that that I be confirmed next year and to do that I have to pass a religion class. That she teaches. I also have no choice but to attend mass every Sunday. It's frustrating to have no choice but to go to a church with ethics that I don't believe in. This fall, they had the parishioners sign a petition against making gay marriage legal in New York.