CNN Parenting

A teen's guide to managing your parents, relationships and coronavirus

Teens: You can influence how your parents treat you.

(CNN)Teens, this column is for you. You've been stuck at home with your parents for months now, unable to see any of your friends in person, at least not up close and personal like friends should be. Our current situation is a nightmare for most of you. I get it.

This is the stage in your life when you seek independence and turn to peers for companionship, when you define yourself in opposition to your parents and figure out who you are. The coronavirus pandemic interrupted that natural impulse and development. If it feels awful, that's because it is!
Your parents want to help and keep you safe, but at the same time they are going through their own pandemic-related challenges and are also contributing to the problem. It can be hard to gain independence when you're stuck together all day, every day!
    So how can you get your needs met while avoiding strangling your parents? You can't magically will them to be different.
      Instead, take a strategic view of the situation. Stay focused on what you hope to achieve, and how you can get there — or somewhere close.
      The sad truth is this: If you act like a child, your parents will treat you like one. If you yell and rail and sulk, they'll also shut down or curb what little freedom you have left.
      On the other hand, if you demonstrate that you're a responsible member of the family, you're more likely to win privileges.
        Sometimes, this means showing more maturity than your parents, at least in the moment. After all, they're also unhappy being stuck at home, also missing time with friends and favorite activities and are also stressed about finances and job security. Your parents need your emotional support and help around the house, more than ever.
        This could mean that when your mom is yelling at you for leaving chip bags and soda cans all over the living room last night, you don't yell back or get defensive. Take a deep breath and apologize. When you own your part of a problem, it takes the wind out of the other person's sails.


        Ask yourself, "How can I show them I'm responsible enough to be given more freedom?"
        And define freedom as you see it. What do you need? Is it less mandatory family time or less nagging about homework or staying up and sleeping in later?
        Negotiate with your parents so that your position and theirs are voiced, and reach a compromise you can live with. If they won't discuss it now, ask if they'd be willing to talk about it tomorrow — maybe they need time to think about it.
        Common conflict areas are kitchen use and cleaning, wake-up times, bedtimes, boredom, noise level, meals, food variety, video games and, of course, wanting to see your friends. When you begin negotiations, start with something small to win their trust.
        For example, perhaps they want you to keep your room spotless all the time. Currently, you only clean when you feel like it. Try offering to tidy once a week for an hour and returning dirty dishes to the dishwasher every night. If you compromise, they might stop nagging.
        Or if you don't like the food being served, offer to take over the huge task of ordering grocery deliveries and wiping down supplies when they come into the house. When you're in charge, you might have an opportunity to slip into the list the items you really enjoy. (Of course, you'll want to agree with your parents on parameters for healthy and junk food, to avoid even more conflicts.)