I'm sure we've all been there at some point in our lives. When we've been feeling stressed or upset or angry and our parents have made us feel as though we shouldn't be feeling that way. That because we are kids we have no right to feel stressed or upset or angry. Or that the thing we are feeling stressed or upset or angry about is pathetic and we have no reason to be acting how we are acting.
And that makes us feel pretty shitty. It makes us feel pretty shitty because we can't help feeling the way we feel. We can't help feeling stressed or upset or angry. We're just kids and are having to deal with quite a lot of different things. For the first ten years of our lives, we are growing and developing and just trying to find a way to assert ourselves in society. We are trying to take in a load of information that may or may not be useful in our future. We are trying to learn about what it is like to be a person in this world and all we want to do is play with our friends, play with our toys, and compete with our siblings for attention from our parents.
And then you get to the pre-teen and teenage years. This is a time when you start experiencing a whole load of new things in your body. Our hormones start to develop and we feel all over the place. We start gaining new feelings for people; feelings that we have never felt before. We start wondering when we're going to have our first relationship and whether it will be the only one we are ever in. We wonder when we're going to have our first kiss and whether we'll feel the butterflies they say they feel in the movies. We wonder when the first time we have sex will be and what it will feel like and whether it will hurt. We have to go through that phase of having our face covered in spots and having to cake our face with foundation to cover them up, only to find that this only makes them worse. We start growing hair in places that we have never found hair before and have to start learning how to shave or wax. We wonder why someone is prettier than us or has more friends than us or is happier than us or is more popular than us. We have to deal with all of this and go about our day-to-day lives like everything is normal. But we feel that what we are feeling isn't normal, which is why we hold everything in, which is why our outbursts of stress, upset, and anger come out in such a force.
And this is when our parents belittle us. Even though they went through all of this twenty or thirty years ago, they still belittle us for our outbursts. They laugh about how we are feeling. Which just makes our outbursts come out in even more force. Because we feel misunderstood. We feel as though ourselves and our feelings don't matter, which is why we shut ourselves away. We feel so misunderstood that we try and keep ourselves away from everyone else because we are sick and tired of feeling as though we have no right to display how we are feeling.
Anyone who has ever struggled with their mental health will know how damaging it can be to keep your feelings to yourself. This is why people suggest talking to someone, whether that person be a family member, a friend, a teacher, a colleague, a doctor, a therapist, etc. But it is also suggested that if you feel you cannot talk to someone that you write your feelings down. The following is something I wrote on the notes app on my phone back in 2015 when I was fifteen years old:
'Literally it's just so annoying how my mum is always shouting at me and she always makes a big deal about nothing and even though I know that it's nothing to worry about I always end up getting really upset to the point where I'm having to try and hold everything in and try to be happy for the sake of my little brothers. It's just so annoying how they don't know what's going on and how the shouting doesn't affect them and if it does it will be for a few minutes and then they'll forget all about it. But I can be crying for hours about it and then I'll stop and when I go to bed I'll cry myself to sleep. I've been crying myself to sleep for so long that I've forgotten what it's like to go to sleep without crying. I've never had any of my friends round my house since year seven because I never know what mood my mum's going to be in and even if she's in a good mood at first it's guaranteed that she'll be in a foul mood during the time that they're at my house. If she asks you do to something and you don't get up literally the second she's said it she's already having a go at you. School and school trips are my only escape. I say that I hate school which I do but it's way better than being at home. I know that some people might want to swap and be me for a day because their situation is way worse than mine and I can't even imagine what they must be going through. But it's not just that my mum shouts at me it's also that she's always hiding things from me and I always end up finding out about them months before she's actually told me about it and the only reason I don't say anything is because I try to pretend it's not real and that it's never going to happen but if I tell my mum I know then I know that she's going to say that it's true and I think that will hit me harder than me finding it out for myself. I also hate how it's exam season and I'm supposed to be revising for my subjects and I'm doing really bad in most of them and my mum always expects me to drop everything in an instant just so I can do something for her even though my ten year old brother is perfectly capable of doing that and all he'll ever be doing is playing on his Xbox or tablet. My mum's always saying that because I'm a teenager I should be happy and free and enjoying my life but I can't be happy because my mum's always putting me down, I don't feel free because of where we live and I always feel like I've been caged up and aren't able to leave and don't have any freedom and I can't enjoy my life because people expect too much of me at a young age and are expecting me to be making decisions that involve the rest of my life but I don't know what I'm going to do with my life job-wise and I'm literally good at nothing in particular and I'm only doing alright in the subjects that I'm best at and my school doesn't even bother to help me or any others that I know are struggling. In year eight I went from being in top set English to dropping down to bottom for my half of the year in the space of a week. I literally sit there in lessons and don't have any idea what's going on and very few of my teachers actually want us to do well and are prepared to help us to get the high grades we should be getting whereas the rest of them, including the headteacher and various other senior members of staff, couldn't care less about whether we pass or not and their main priority is everyone who's in top set and that they're doing well whereas people lower down in the school aren't getting the help they need. Ofsted said this in their report and that it should be the school's main concern to change but they haven't changed it and we've got another inspection next week which we're going to fail. Like they give top sets all of the best teachers and they give the lower sets all the shit teachers and then none of us in the lower sets get what we're supposed to be doing, such as in science, and the top set did the same stuff that we're doing now last year and they say that the stuff we're doing is really easy and we're all struggling on the stuff that's supposed to be the easiest. My science class haven't had a proper teacher in two years and they've only just bought a science specialist in to help us but my class only have her for the 2/5 lessons we have and then the others are spent with a geography teacher who knows nothing about chemistry and in the physics/biology the teachers alright but she just writes everything on the board for us to copy so what we're doing never really sticks in'
This is everything fifteen year old me had been feeling for god knows how long. That was everything I was going through at the time. It's easy for me now to say that it was nothing and is absolutely nothing compared to what I'm (or any of us) is dealing with now, but I can genuinely remember writing that and can remember I was crying at the time. I think I was crying because I had been made to feel that I needed to hold these emotions in. That if I showed any emotion I would be made fun of and put down for having any feelings other than happiness.
They say your childhood and teenage years are supposed to be the happiest years of your life. I disagree. Sure, I look back on my childhood and life as a teenager with fondness and nothing but love and to a degree do believe I was at my happiest during this time. But I am only twenty years old and have hardly experienced life yet. It's difficult for me to say which part of your life is the happiest or the best and which isn't because I (hopefully) haven't experienced half of it yet. But one thing I can say for certain is that your childhood and teenage years aren't the best. They're not the best because you're misunderstood. You're misunderstood because no one understands you. Because all of the adults seem to have forgotten what it was like for them when they were that age. Your childhood and teenage years aren't the best because you're not really a part of society yet. For so many years you're not old enough to drink, drive, vote, and adults see you not being old enough to do any of these as meaning you don't have a voice and aren't entitled to an opinion. They fail to realise that we may be young but we still have some of an idea of what's going on in the world and that we should be allowed to have a say in the things that affect us.
So, parents, my plea to you is this. Please stop laughing at your children and belittling their emotions. Sure, they may be young and you may think that what they're experiencing is nothing compared to what they're likely to experience once they reach adulthood. But the reality is, they haven't experienced much of life yet. The only difficulty they know in life is the difficulties they have been through so far. If your child is struggling with their homework and getting upset, talk to them, calm them down, and help them with it. If your teenager is getting stressed about their exams, talk to them about them and encourage them to just try their best, as at the end of the day that's all they can do. If your teenager is upset or angry about their exam results, sit them down and reassure them that these results aren't the be all and end all of their life and that there are other paths to get them to where they want to be. If you notice a change in your child or teenager's behaviour, whether that be that they are getting more stressed, upset or angry than usual, don't force them to talk to you and get angry when they don't; just let them know that you are going to be there for them if and when they're ready to talk. They're more likely to talk to you if you do all of these things than if you laugh at them or make them believe their emotions aren't relevant. I know I'm no parent, but I have just turned twenty and having been through all of these things, I know what it feels like to feel this way. So please, don't make fun of your child. And don't belittle them either. Just talk to them. Because at the end of the day, that's the most you can do.
Love Beth xx