My parents are suffocating me

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

i just turned sixteen this month and i was hoping that my parents would start letting me have more freedom, but it hasnt happened yet. they have always been strict with me and my older sister and i know that they just want the best for us, but i dont think i can take it anymore.
i am a good student, i always have been. i dont get in trouble at school and i have a bright future ahead of me. my parnets just dont let me have fun. i cant join clubs because of them. i can hardly go out and hang out with friends, especially when boys are present. if i bring up the topic of boyfriends, they automatically think im having sex.
my sister ran away last year, but since she was 18 there was nothi ng my parents could do about it. yet i have suffered her consequences. they punish me for all the things they can not punish her for. and its unfair. im suffocating in my house, i can barely be on the internet because they think im talking to strangers and what not. i always tell them the truth but they never believe me. i dont know what to do to get them to see things through my perspective.
help me please i dont know what to do anymore

A: You sound like a good kid in a tough situation. It looks like your parents were traumatized by your sister’s leaving and are in considerable emotional pain. From their point of view, they are protecting you and preventing the loss of another daughter. What they probably don’t realize is that they are in danger of creating the very situation they most fear. If they don’t start trusting you and letting you spread your wings a bit, you will end up wanting to join your sister.

My suggestion is for you to call in some help. Perhaps there is a relative your parents respect who can see both sides and can help you negotiate a gradual increase of freedoms. If not, consider talking with a trusted teacher or guidance counselor at school about the situation. They may provide direct help if they feel qualified. If they don’t, they may be able to help you find a family therapist who can work with you and your folks. Your parents need reassurance that starting to participate in normal teen activities won’t turn you away from their values. They need to see you as the individual you are, rather than as a shadow of your sister. They also need a place to deal with the pain of losing your sister and perhaps to think about ways to reconnect with her.

I hope you can be patient with your parents and can see the fears underneath the restrictions. If they feel understood, they may be able to gradually let go, knowing that you will stay connected.

I wish you all well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 16 Dec 2009

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2009). My parents are suffocating me. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 21, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2009/12/16/my-parents-are-suffocating-me/