Sari Says: The Real Dirt on Everything From Sex to School

Excerpt from Chapter about PARENTS

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Parents: You can’t live with them but you wouldn’t be alive without them

Maybe when you were a kid, you were daddy’s little girl or a good mama’s boy. But now that you’re getting older, your home life might be getting more complicated. Even the coolest parents can cause a few problems in their kid’s life at some point. It may be because you think they’re too strict, they don’t understand you, or they don’t fully respect you as the individual who you are becoming. Or the difficulties could be caused by the way that your parents’ relationship with each other affects you. It might not just be your ‘rents who cause you grief. Your brother, sisters, grandparents, and cousins all can drive you up the wall at some point. But you know that deep down they all love you, right?!  In this chapter, I’ll help you learn to deal with all those loving (but sometimes annoying) folks at home.

Snooping mom

Dear Sari,

My mom reads my email, my journals, and goes through my backpack. Mom wants to know everything I am doing, and when I don’t tell her enough, she tries to find out more on her own. She thinks that I don’t know, but I’m not stupid. I don't want to confront her because I am afraid that it would just turn into a huge fight. What should I do?

Sari Says:

You have the right to privacy, but you have to remember that you are still living in your mom's house. She worries about you and she thinks that if she checks up on you, she'll find out if you are safe and sound, or if you are doing things that are dumb and dangerous.  Snooping is not the right way for her to do this. The two of you should work out a way that you can trust her to respect your privacy, and she still feels like she knows enough about what is going on in your life.

Explain to your mom that you are growing up, and you want more privacy now that you are older. Let her know that you would not do anything "bad" and try to hide it. Promise that if she respects your privacy, then in return, you will tell her more about what's going on in your life. If she agrees to this, make an effort to tell her more about your day at school and your friends—even your crushes. 

If she doesn't agree, then you'll have to find privacy wherever you can. When you write down your most private thoughts hide them somewhere she won't look. You can get small file box that locks, and keep it in your room, or keep your journal in your school locker. As far as email goes, it’s easy to quickly type out a message and send it off, without thinking much about it. But email can be forwarded and printed out, and it can remain on someone's hard drive forever. So whether you mom's reading it or not, you should still always be very careful about putting too much personal stuff in email.

I hope that you do not have to go to these extremes of hiding everything, but if your mom just won't stop snooping, the best you can do is make sure she does not find anything "good.” If she doesn't find anything, she will probably give up on snooping anyway.

Fighting with your parents

Dear Sari,

My parents and I fight about everything —my clothes, my friends, my boyfriend, money, you name it. They never let me do anything. It's not fair! Help me!

Sari Says:

To cut down on the fighting it can help if they understand what you are going though in your life as a teen. Calmly talk with them.  Ask them what they were like when they were teens. Ask to tell you some fun stories about their parents were like at that time. This conversation may help you talk about how you'd like them to treat you.

Then, tell them that you want to meet them halfway between what you want, and what they want. Here are examples of some compromises. If your mom says she only wants you in long skirts, and you want to wear mini-skirts, then agree that from now on you'll wear knee-length skirts. Or if they never allow you to go over to your boyfriend's, then ask if he can come to your place for dinner sometime so they can get to know him.

If your conversation starts turning into a fight, stay calm, and find a way to agree on something—even if it is not exactly what you would ideally want.

Fighting Fairly

It’s only natural to fight with your parents at least once in a while. In order to get through it, you need to learn to fight fairly. Here are some things that will help:

  • Don’t call them names. No matter how annoying they are, keep the criticisms to yourself. Words can hurt.
  • Don’t scream. If you get so mad that you want to yell at them, instead take a deep breath and tell them that you need to take a time out for few minutes to calm down and collect your thoughts.
  • Don’t tell them that your friends’ parents are not as strict. Your parents make their own rules. They usually won’t care what you say that other parents do.
  • Don’t worry about "winning" the argument. State your point of view, and listen to theirs. Maybe you are both right; maybe neither of you are right. But all that should matter is that you can reach a compromise.

Freaking Out about Sneaking Out

Dear Sari,

At midnight I sneak out the back door and go out with friends until about two in the morning without my parents knowing. I don’t do anything bad when I am out—we just walk around downtown.  It's like I feel like I need to tell my parents what I am doing, because I feel bad about hiding it from them, but they would practically want to shoot me if they ever found out.

Sari Says:

If you don’t tell your parents, then you are putting yourself at risk of seriously losing their trust if you get caught. Or even if they never find out, you are risking getting hurt. What if something bad happened to you, and no one could find you until morning because no one knew you were gone? It's just not worth the risks. Talk with your parents to get permission to go out, or realize that you've already had your fun, and it's time to give it up. Believe me on this one, because when I was a senior in high school I snuck out twice. I felt some thrill by being out when nobody knew. But just like you, I felt incredibly guilty—so I told my parents. They weren’t happy, but they said that in the future all I had to do was ask, and some of the time they would let me go out late. The next time I went out with their permission, and had a much better time, because I did not have to worry about getting caught.

Piercing Problem

Dear Sari,

My friend and I got our bellybuttons pierced...the thing is, my mom doesn't know. I am afraid she will freak when she finds out…if she finds out! Should I just keep this from her?

Sari Says:

It's best to tell your parents that you got pierced, even for the basic reason that your parents should be aware of your general health. (Belly button piercing infection, which in rare but serious cases can cause greater problems for girls, since the fallopian tubes are located near the belly button.) Besides, if you don’t tell, you'll spend years making sure that you never change in front of your mom, and you always wear a one-pieced bathing suit. Explain to her why it was important for you to do it. If you profusely apologize for doing it without telling her, and you give her really great reasons why you got pierced—not just, “my friend did it”—then she may let you keep it. If not, as you know, the hole can close up if at any point in your life, so you may decide that for your mom’s sake, you’ll let the piercing close now.

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