A: “The greatest and most important problems in life are all in a certain sense insoluble. They can never be solved, but only outgrown.” -Carl Jung
You are 16 and it sounds to us like you have already had more than your share of disappointments. The decisions your parents made left you in a quandary, but your resilience is showing through by asking us your question. It is a very good thing you are asking for help on this here.
Sometimes it’s how we say something more than what we say that gets through. Your feelings are sadness, loneliness, and bewilderment that your parents are acting like they have finished parenting when you aren’t finished growing up. Your words come off as demanding, angry, and entitled.
You may be feeling sad but what you seem to be showing is criticism.
It’s true that your life does seem upside down. It’s normal for there to be tension between parents and teens between wanting to stay and wanting to go. But usually it is the teen who is pushing for more independence, who is dating people the parents don’t approve of, and who rebels against responsibilities. In your case, you’re the person left at home to worry and your parents are moving on. No wonder you’re upset with them. However – It doesn’t matter how right you are. Being right isn’t going to get you what you most need.
We are assuming that both homes allow you to go to the same school that you are in now. If you don’t know this you may want to ask. You have lost enough. Do consider staying with the parent who lives close enough for you to be in school with your friends. You most likely don’t want to separate from them.
But in any case we think you need an ally. Is there a school counselor or trusted family friend or teacher you can talk to about how hurt you are feeling? Perhaps you and that person can sit down with you and both your parents to help them understand your feelings.
If you want them to listen, you will have to apologize first for being so critical and demanding. This will set the tone for a new kind of conversation between you. Then you need to speak honestly about your feelings. Leave out all your complaints about the people your parents are dating, your wish for the bigger room, your reasons why you think you are entitled to better. Just speak honestly about how much you miss being close to them, about your fears about being so on your own, and about your need for their attention, advice, and support.
Resist the temptation to lecture them about their responsibilities. Keep your part of the conversation focused on how much you still need some parenting. Be open-minded about whatever criticisms they might have. Usually this kind of conflict does go both ways. There may be some things you could do differently to invite them to be closer. If this conversation doesn’t get you all to a better place, ask if you can continue the conversation with a family therapist. Family therapists are trained specifically to help the whole family solve problems together.
The next year 2 years are like coming through the neck of a bottle. You will be 18 then and the freedom and challenges will change. Until then you may want to learn how to negotiate better with your parents. Here is a teen website we have found offers a lot, particularly about how to negotiate with your parents for what you want.
Support, patience and learning to negotiate and feel a bit more empowered in asking for what you want is the formula we are suggesting. We would also note that any decision should be followed with a 30-day (or less) evaluation period where all parties can have some input as to how the decision is going.
Finally, the words of Carl Jung are instructive. This is a struggle that you will be able to cope with for now, and one you will ultimately outgrow.
We send you our best thoughts . . .
Drs. Marie and Dan