“Dear Diedre” is a column on Radio Free Richmond. With life coach experience, Diedre Goree offers her advice to members of the community. Do you have a question for Diedre? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’m a 16-year-old only daughter of divorced parents. Neither my mom or dad has time to spend with me, and they just assume that’s all right with me. I feel getting any attention from either of them is next to impossible. My dad lives with his new girlfriend who hates me, so he rarely comes by now that they’ve moved in together. I’ve stopped spending the night at his place at all because all I do is stay in my room and they stay in theirs. It’s like, what’s the point? I can do the same thing in my own room. When I call him, he’s always too busy, in the middle of doing something, or gives me an empty promise of calling me right back, which of course doesn’t happen. The few times we do go out, his girlfriend blows up his phone with calls or texts so he’s really with her when he’s with me.
I live with my mom, but she’s either working, too tired, or with her new boyfriend. He doesn’t actually live with us, but he’s here most nights when I go to bed. The nights he’s not over, my mom is totally engaged with her Facebook friends and tells me she deserves some time to do what she likes. I’m usually in my room watching TV or at my aunt’s house (my mother’s sister). I don’t know where I would be without her.
I may sound weird, but I want to spend some time with either of my parents. I’m lonely when I’m home and feel like I’m invisible to them. What can I do?
Lonely and Neglected Teen
Dear Lonely and Neglected teen,
I don’t think you’re weird for wanting to spend quality time with your parents. Parents can emotionally neglect their children in a number of ways. Inadequate attention to a child's physical needs and lack of emotional support constitute neglect. When a child does not feel loved they may develop low self-esteem, which could lead to future unhealthy coping mechanisms such as eating disorders, self-harm, substance abuse, or delinquency. Emotionally neglected children have the tendency to exhibit poor academic performance, difficulty interacting with peers, and displaying anger through verbally or physically attacking other people.
So before any of these things happen to you, there are a few things you can do:
1. If you haven’t already, talk to both of your parents and tell them how you feel. Be direct and specific, telling them you want more attention and time with them. Don’t make a list of complaints, instead, make “I” statements expressing your feeling and desires. They might be so involved in what is going on in their life and themselves that they do not realize they are missing valuable days with you. Point this out to them and things may change for the better.
2. If you think they don’t have time to talk to you, give them a well-written letter. Again, be specific on what you need and want from them and give them suggestions on when you can make this happen. Suggest days and times that you know they’re free so the two of you can do something together. Emphasize how important it is to be alone with them, reminding them that you’ll be going to college soon and time is precious. Ask if you and them could brain-storm and find ways to spend time together.
3. Start building yourself a new support team. You didn’t mention any friends or clubs that you’re involved in which may be just what you need. Become more outgoing and develop yourself. You’ll need these skills once you go to college so you may as well sharpen your skills now. Positive friendships, interests, and hobbies are an important part of the journey to adulthood. If there aren’t any interesting clubs in your school or neighborhood, start your own.
4. Shake things up a little and to try new things alone reminding yourself that you can do whatever you like, and you don't need anyone else to do it with you. And, in truth, there is enjoyment to be found in having fun by yourself. Don’t limit yourself, especially in the Bay Area, there’s always something to do. Some people who are appalled at the mere thought of going to dinner or a movie or some other event by themselves may be surprised at what it actually feels like if they try it.
5. You also mentioned an aunt. If possible, spend more time with her. Talk to her and let her know what’s going on in your home. Be as honest with her as you are with your parents and ask her to step in and give you what you’re missing. Schedule specific days to come and visit and possibly spend the night.
6. Find a good organization and volunteer your skills and talent. Research indicates that volunteering provides individual health benefits in addition to social ones. The intangible benefits alone — such as pride, satisfaction, and accomplishment — are worthwhile reasons to serve. In addition, when we share our time and talents we connect to others and transforms lives.
7. It may be time for you to get a part-time job. A weekend job can help you develop your identity, obtain self-sufficiency, achieve new accomplishments, develop work experience, and become more independent.
I hope this helps. Keep moving positively forward,