An Open Letter to Parents Who Worry about What Their Teens Write

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A little while back a mom emailed me because she was worried about the topics her teen daughter was choosing to write about (including incest, violence, and other uncomfy topics). Since then, I’ve gotten a few similar letters, so I thought I would share my thoughts on ways of responding respectfully to teen writing–even when it doesn’t look like what parents might prefer.

If the topic of teen writing/reading as a starting place for crucial conversations interests you, check out my post on the whole “YA books are too dark” controversy. 

Dear parents,

Thanks for your confidence that I might have some wisdom to offer. Here’s my take as a writer, teacher, and also a mom.

I get why you’re concerned about your teens’ writing. Still, I think the best thing to do is to keep the lines of communication open and not try to control what they explore in writing. Ditto for their reading. The reality is that teens will read what they want–either with our knowledge or (if we try to limit their access) without it. But when we know what they’re reading (and even read the same things), we can use that material as a starting point for important discussions.

To be honest, it’s my experience that by age 12-13, many young people are either involved in or intrigued by what we parents consider “adult” behaviors. Helping our teens navigate these adult waters–that’s the privilege (and burden!) of parenting and mentoring.

One thought: talk with your teen about why the situations they’ve  written about intrigue them. See if you can’t also help them see the blessing of a “boring” life as well as the depth of the scars that those “interesting” experiences might leave on those who have suffered them. I hear from young people with “boring” lives who say that reading my first novel, WHAT CAN’T WAIT, made them appreciate their parents’ support and involvement–even those aspects that they might previously have resented.

Hope this helps!

Ashley Hope Pérez

 

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