First of all, you should know that I am 15 years old, and I was asked to talk about how I get along with my family. I thought it must be a joke. So did my family when I told them. I could just as well tell you all I know about nuclear chemistry. My Grandma Kreitzer says 15 is a disease, but it does run its course. In our family, two brothers and a sister have gone through it and turned out all right, so there’s hope for me. But to be perfectly honest, I doubt there are many 15-year-olds who could talk from experience on getting along well in their family. I don’t suppose any of us treat our families like we should all the time. That’s why we should think about it occasionally. I was also told it was all right for me to begin my talk by saying, “Do as I say, not as I do.”
A teenager’s life revolves mostly around friends. Friends are important and influential. We always pick friends we can get along with, people who have things in common with us. It’s been said, “You can pick your friends, but you can’t pick your family.” Probably there are young people who feel they were born into a group of people they would not have chosen to have as friends. They’re seldom our own age. They don’t know the other kids we know, or our teachers. They don’t dress like we do, and they don’t like our music. They often have different interests. And we’re supposed to be “friends” with our family?
But think about it for a minute. I’m not sealed for all eternity to my school friends, and I am sealed to my family. In fact, there will probably come a time, later on, when all I’ll hear from my friends will be written on a Christmas card or laughed at at a class reunion or visit. My family is bound to keep popping up regularly for the rest of my life. So it’s to our advantage to learn to get along. As I have thought about this and talked to other people there have been several ideas that seemed important.
1. We need to remember that the other members of our family are real people too. We should give our parents credit for knowing something. They were young once and maybe they remember. Ask them to share their experiences and memories. You may have found their old yearbooks. They can be amusing, especially the inscriptions. It’s surprising to see them in their high school days. Sometimes we see someone very much like ourselves, and it’s a little scary.
Younger brothers and sisters look up to us and imitate what we do and say. I’m sure we don’t realize how important our example is to them. It would be good if we could spend time with them and treat them like we do our friends.
Family members are people, a lot like us.
2. Most of us remember that charming little extraterrestrial movie star, E.T., but do you recall the great advice he gave us? “PHONE HOME!” Parents worry easily—maybe because they do still remember what they did at our age. It’s good to phone home often when we’re away. If we let them know where we are, who we’re with, and if we have a change of plans, then they will be able to trust our judgment. If we show them we are trustworthy, then we will gain their trust. If we lie, or don’t do what we say we’ll do, then we shouldn’t be surprised if our privileges are cut off. So phone home.
This advice goes both ways. Parents, when you are gone or have a change in plans, the kids at home would appreciate knowing about it. People nowadays are busy, with many places to go and obligations to meet. But we do need to be considerate of each other and let family members know what our plans are and how they can reach us.
3. There’s an old saying that goes, “The grass is always greener on the other side.” Sometimes teenagers get the idea that things are lots better for their friends. Their parents seem to be more fun, more lenient, set later curfews, don’t have as many chores, give bigger allowances, and dress better. But I think if we were realistic and could see the truth, their circumstances are probably no better than ours. Different, maybe, but not better. If we could experience their homes in the morning, taste their meals, clean their bathrooms, and listen to their parents’ lectures, I’ll bet we wouldn’t trade. When all is said and done, I think most kids would rather have their own parents, and parents would not want to trade their children off for someone else’s.
4. Part of having a good relationship with anyone, but especially a family member, is being able to communicate feelings—both positive and negative. Teenagers like to talk, and they like someone who will listen and not judge them. Kids have a lot to cope with and sometimes it builds up and they need to let off steam. They can also suffer depression. Sometimes parents are having the same problems. (Let’s hope it doesn’t happen at the same time.) Family members are just human beings of different ages. Basically, they all seem to have the same needs.
One of our biggest needs is to feel loved and accepted. In families we need to say and show “I love you and care about you”—every day. Hugs and kisses are always appropriate and welcome.
5. Laughing, keeping a sense of humor, is a must for families. We shouldn’t take ourselves or others too seriously. It’s good to see the bright side of things and be cheerful. My Grandma Jennings says, “Laugh and the world laughs with you; frown and you frown alone.”
There are, however, a few times in a family when it’s not good to laugh—like during family prayers, when your mom’s trying on her swimming suit, and during your little sister’s piano recital, to name a few. My dad keeps reminding me that it’s a sign of maturity to know when to laugh and when not to.
There are many things we could do as teenagers to make family life better. I’ve mentioned some major ones. A few other suggestions are—
Eat meals together.
Have prayers together and sit together in church.
Share responsibilities and chores around the house.
Return things you borrow.
Take careful phone messages and pass them along.
Show appreciation for things others do for you.
Let someone else have a hot shower once in a while.
Let others have a turn with the telephone.
Surprise Mom and Dad by doing something without being asked.
Ask others in the family what they are doing.
Remember the Golden Rule is not “Do it to them before they do it to you” but “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
The atmosphere in the home is the business of everyone who lives there. One bad apple can spoil the barrel. Often 15-year-olds don’t realize the difference they can make. We can be part of the problems or part of the solutions in our homes. In a short time, most of us will probably go away to college, go on missions, get married, or take jobs in another area. We won’t always be here. When we leave, will our families be glad to see us go, or will they miss us? It’s up to us. I hope that when I move away, my family will be asking, “When’s Angi coming home again? I miss her.”