From my daughter Ella

My parents asked me to write about what I feel parents should know about high schoolers. I want to preface this blog by saying this is not a one-size-fits-all situation. Every high schooler is different. If you are genuinely concerned, you should ask your child what they need from you. Everything I write is in the context that your child hasn’t done anything genuinely wrong.

My first piece of advice is: to show empathy over sympathy. Showing your child that you can see the world from their point of view is invaluable to your relationship. This is because if your child feels truly understood they are more likely to come to you with their problems. They are more likely to do this because they think you get where they are coming from and can help them instead of just saying, “that sucks.” Sympathy can be great but putting yourself in the shoes of your child will almost always be the better approach to handling problems.

The next piece of advice I would like to share is that you have to accept that your child is going to keep secrets. I completely understand that you want your child to tell you everything, but no teenager actually does. This is ok and completely normal. The reason most of us will keep secrets is because we are better off handling things ourselves than getting parents involved. Teenagers are young adults, and we don’t need you for every problem anymore and getting you involved will just make it worse. Also, there are some things you are better off not knowing about.

What I think is the most important piece of advice is to GIVE YOUR CHILD PRIVACY. If you take away privacy trust goes with it. That is how you end up with a child who will never tell you anything ever again. I am going to bring up the fact that high schoolers are mini adults yet again. I bring this up because every adult wants privacy to some extent so why is it any different when a teenager wants privacy? It doesn’t matter that you are their parent, because THEY STILL NEED PRIVACY FROM YOU! I think this applies even if the child has given you a reason to mistrust them. I think this because robbing your child of privacy just makes them sneaky, and you are most likely trying to do the opposite of that. I can guarantee you there are more effective punishments out there than taking away your child’s privacy.

Another piece of advice is: if your kid is trying their best, do not punish them for grades.  Let’s be honest here, the American public education system is not the greatest and fails loads of people. Your child could be one of those people and you have to be ok with that. Your child could know the information inside and out but when it comes time to test their stress response blocks out all the information and they score low. That is just how stress works. Chances are if this happens your child is already upset and you punishing them and acting like they are a failure because of bad grades only makes them more anxious when it comes time for the next test because that pressure is on them. Also, let’s be real, grades only matter if you are going to college, and if your child isn’t, then who cares anyway? I believe everyone should at least try to get good grades but if your kid is genuinely trying do not punish them for grades.

My final piece of advice is: to tell your kid you are proud of them. Simply saying this is invaluable to teenagers. It is one of the best things you can say to us because it shows you see our good qualities and are proud of them. I know from personal experience that whenever I’m feeling down on myself my parents saying, “I’m proud of you” can make me feel so much better. I recommend you do this often because the world puts so much pressure on high schoolers and knowing that someone sees them doing well alleviates some of that pressure.

High schoolers are basically young adults, and we deserve to be seen and treated as such. You have more to teach us as parents, but a big part of life is making your own mistakes and learning lessons from them. If the parents of high schoolers parent with that in mind it will be much more effective. I hope you got something out of this little blog I wrote.


Ella Greene


Rebecca’s response to Ella:

First, thank you so much Ella for sharing all of this with us. I think it is super helpful and I think a lot of other parents will think so too. We appreciate you being so open and honest with us. I would like to respond to your advice.

Regarding showing empathy instead of sympathy: that is so extremely helpful. I have never thought about it that way and I will remember this and use this in my parenting. Super smart of you to realize this and share this with us!

Regarding accepting that my children will keep secrets: I absolutely agree with this, and I appreciate your honesty. No child wants to tell their parents everything. I had secrets from my wonderful parents too and I still do. However, please know that my door is always open for you. I am an open book ready and willing to discuss anything with you at any time. You can tell me anything. You don’t need to worry about judgement or getting into trouble. My main concern is just to be there for my children and help them through this crazy wonderful life that we have. I know how hard it is to be a teenager. I remember it well and I wouldn’t want to go back. I want you to think: “I can’t wait to tell my mom.” Not: “I can’t tell my mom, I don’t want to get in trouble.”

Regarding giving my children privacy: I agree with this to a point. I think that you personally deserve privacy. You haven’t given me any reason to invade your privacy. However, ever y child is not you. You are hard-working and responsible and get good grades. You have nice friends, and you aren’t out partying and drinking and doing drugs. For safety reasons, some children’s privacy needs to be broken. I understand all your points and I know that privacy is important. I think you have earned privacy. I also think that when you are a child or under 18, it is your parent’s responsibility to protect you. It can get complicated, but I hear you.

Regarding not punishing your children for bad grades: I think you make some really good points. I think that parents need to look at the effort that their children are putting into their work. I am more concerned with your effort than with the outcome. All three of my children work hard. This means that I wouldn’t punish any of you for bad grades. However, what if a child is putting in zero effort? I also think parents need to examine why this is. Maybe their child is struggling in school and not getting the help they need. You bring up excellent points that I hope parents listen to.

Finally, I love that you remind all of us to tell our children that we are proud of them. I am SO PROUD of my three children and I hope all of you know that. I will keep telling you all very often. I think it helps you when I am specific about telling you why I am proud of you. That helps you to identify your strengths.

Dearest Ella, thank you for sharing with us. You are so wise, and we all value your perspective. You definitely helped a lot of people with this. I hope you will write for us again. I love that we are entering this writing journey together. When school gets out for the summer, Ella will be doing a lot more writing for us. I’m looking forward to it!


Laughing, Learning, Loving,

Rebecca Greene, LCSW-R


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