Teen’s parents won’t let her go

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

I’m 16 and for years now I’ve been dealing with my parents hurting me emotionally. First off I’m not allowed to have a boyfriend and the only boyfriend I’m ever allowed to have is the guy I’m going to marry. I’m a bright young lady with big dreams. I wish I would go out and observe the world and soak it in while I’m still young, except I cannot do that because my parents never let me leave the house. They let me get my license but I’m not allowed to drive alone, I have to have my mother by my side everywhere I go. I’ve tried everything, she will never let me out of her sight unless I’m at school.

I wish I could be like other girls so go out to a movie or stay the night over each others houses, but I can’t do that. Everytime I’m invited to go somewhere I always have to make up an excuse.

Sometimes I feel so hurt, and cry. I cry almost everyday because I feel like I’m locked up in this house. Sometimes my parents just make me feel like I don’t even want to be apart of this earth. But than again I know life is a very precious thing to have, and I wish I could live it.

I’m a good girl with alot of potential, I’m in high school but also attending college at the same time. I feel like I wont be able to have freedom until I’m married. I can’t deal with this anymore…Help please I really feel like I’m falling apart, my parents really don’t understand things from my perspective at all. I just want to be a regular teenager.

A: In spite of everything, it seems that you and your parents love each other very much. You continue to follow their rules and do well academically even though you are so unhappy. Your parents are doing their best to protect you from a world that frightens them. I admire you for trying to figure out how to get past this impasse without resorting to sneaking around or a major blow-up.

You didn’t mention any theory you might have about why your parents are behaving as they are. Did something bad happen to one of them or a relative when they were young? Are they from another culture where this kind of protection of a young girl is expected? Are there reasons for your parents to think that where you live is unsafe? If I were seeing your family, those are questions I would want to explore with them. They don’t seem mean; just way, way too over-protective for a young girl living in America these days.

The problem with your parents’ strategy for keeping you safe is that you aren’t learning how to take care of yourself. Someday, you’ll have to drive on your own. Someday, you’re going to be the one to make the decisions about what is and isn’t right for you. Your folks would keep you safer over the long haul if they found a way to gradually let you loose into the world so that you could develop the strength and confidence to deal with it on your own.

I think you probably need some adult help to convince them. I suggest you talk with your school guidance counselor or your clergyperson if you have one. Even the family doctor or a favorite teacher can be helpful in situations like this. Look for another adult who can be sympathetic to your parents’ concerns and at the same time help them understand how important it is to teach you your own safety skills.

Expect to start gradually. For example: They might be more comfortable letting you sleep over at a girlfriend’s house if they were introduced to her parents. They might be more comfortable with you seeing boys if it were in a group, rather than dating someone special at first.

I very much hope that you can find someone to help you mediate with your parents. You all sound like good people struggling with how to best help you become an independent adult.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 2 Mar 2009

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2009). Teen’s parents won’t let her go. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 1, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2009/03/02/teens-parents-wont-let-her-go/