| THIS IS NOT A LEGAL DOCUMENT.
This information is not written by a lawyer, a paralegal, or
anyone associated in any way with a court, legal or government
What is a supportive parent? One who:
- can say who each of their children's favorite band is,
favorite movie or actor is, favorite book is, what their
dreams for the future are, etc.
- actively encourages their children to do well in school,
and celebrates school successes
- listens to their children talk about school and day-to-date
- schedules regular one-on-one time with a child - walking
around the block, over a meal, during a drive, etc. - so that
conversations that need to happen regularly happen
- does activities regularly with their children:
watching a sporting event together, going to a museum or to a
state park, going hiking together, playing catch in the back
yard, paying some hoops, etc.
- buys their children the basics they need for school, like
books, paper, etc.
- goes to watch their children in various activities -
sports, a theater performance, a band, etc.
- celebrates important milestones in their child's life: the
first day of school, graduation from high school, the first
game played, the first theater or choir or band performance,
16th birthday, etc.
- takes LOTS of photos of their children, and looks at these
photos together with their children
- saves important documents to a child: report cards,
certificates and trophies recognizing achievement, letters
from grandparents, etc.
- saves money, and helps their children work to create a
savings account, for university or life after high school
- talks with their children about the future
- respects their children's values that might be different
from their own (a child that has realized he or she would like
to go to a different community of faith, or would like to be a
Even a supportive parent might not be able to buy the most
fashionable tennis shoes, or a smart phone, or a car for their
kids. They might sometimes have to shop at Goodwill for school
clothes. They might require kids to do yard work or house work.
They punish their children appropriately for not doing homework
(taking away a smart phone, or video game privileges). They
might not like their children's friends because of their
negative behavior, and say so. They might have to say no to a
request, because of the family budget, because of another
priority, or because they feel the request is inappropriate. But
such parents can still be there for their kids in heart and
mind, and can still have a child's best interest at heart. There
might be arguments, there might be tears, there might be moments
where a child yells, "You don't understand me!" That's normal.
But none of that is a sign of an unsupportive/neglectful parent.
Sadly, there are parents that aren't supportive. These parents
aren't abusive, but they engage in behavior that doesn't give
their children emotional stability or the kind of affection and
support every child needs. Unsupportive parents might:
This is different from behavior that is a threat to children by
parents, such as:
- choose to buy a new car or another car, the top cable or
satellite TV package, or the latest smart phone, instead of
school supplies, or instead of saving for their child's
- spend large amounts of time money gambling instead of
spending time with their children
- choose to stay home and watch TV or play video games, or go
out with their own friends, instead of going to their
children's sporting events, music performances, help with
- not listen to their children's accounts about being afraid
of someone or something, or dismiss such talk as being
alarmist ("He's just saying that because, really, he likes
you" to a girl who expresses fear of a boy who is engaging in
physical and verbal behavior targeted at her)
- not schedule regular one-on-one time with a child - walking
around the block, over a meal, during a drive, etc. - so that
conversations that need to happen regularly happen
- mock their children's tastes in clothes, music, social
- mock their children's beliefs that are different from their
own, or don't take them seriously (serving meals filled with
meat in every dish to a child that has said he or she wants to
be a vegetarian)
- have no idea what their children's beliefs are (suggesting
again and again a high school student try to get an internship
in a coal company's office without knowing their child wrote
editorials in the school paper against coal companies and in
support of wind energy)
- make disparaging remarks about their children doing well in
school ("You think you are better than me?") or activities the
child engages in ("Reading is for nerds" or "you will never
get a scholarship, so why do you keep playing basketball?")
- have no idea what their children's favorite band is,
favorite movie is, favorite book is, etc.
- have no idea what their children's dreams for the future
- rarely take photos of, or otherwise acknowledge, milestones
in a child's life: the first day of school, graduation from
high school, the first game played, the first theater or choir
or band performance, 16th birthday, etc.
- forgets birthdays altogether
In these more severe cases, a child might want to consider legal emancipation,
a legal process that gives a teenager who is under 18 legal
independence from his or her parents or guardians - the same legal
independence he or she would acquire upon an 18th birthday and
moving out of the home. It is something that can be granted only
through proper state legal processes and by a court judge.
Emancipation laws vary from state to state. See A
Teenager's Guide to Emancipation for more on this. Think
very carefully before you start the emancipation process. It is a
tremendous amount of financial, legal and personal responsibility
to take on.
- Your parents have taken out loans and credit cards in your
name, thereby ruining your credit and making you legally
responsible for their debts
- Your parents have taken money from you that you have earned
or that has been given to you
- Your parents have told you that you no longer may live with
- Your parents have told you that, for you to continue to
live with them, you must engage in activities that go against
your values or that would be profoundly degrading or
- Conditions at your parents home are unsanitary or unsafe
- Someone in your parents home has physically or emotionally
abused you, or threatened such abuse
When living with unsupportive parents, you need to do more
than just survive; you need to become supportive of yourself and
create a more positive life for yourself. You need to exercise
control over your own life, both to get through today and
prepare for the future. Try to turn bitterness into energy to
create the life you want, as much as possible, instead of
complaining about your situation:
- Give up any efforts to change your parents, and quit hoping
they will change. Make the decision that they are the way they
are and you cannot change them. Decide that you can and will
- Save as much money as possible. Make an appointment with a
parent to go with you to a bank to open a savings account.
Don't say something general, like, "Would you help me open a
savings account?" That's to easy to say no to, through
inaction. Instead, go to a bank yourself, on your own, get the
info you need, and then say to a parent, "Could you go with me
on this coming Saturday, at 10 a.m., to such-and-such bank and
sign some papers so I can have a savings account?" Be specific
about the date and time you want this to happen. Don't be
confrontational, but be definite.
- Get a job. You are never too young to make money. If
working at a formal job, like a fast food place, is impossible
because you have no transportation to get to your shifts or
you are too young, then start your own business: walk dogs,
pet sit, child sit, do yard work, etc. Make fliers offering
your services and give them to all your neighbors.
- Volunteer. There are numerous
opportunities for teen volunteers, including leadership
volunteering activities, and this not only keeps you
busy, it introduces you to other people, including new friends
and supportive adults, it provides you a way to explore
various careers, it could lead to a scholarship, it teaches
you skills you will use over a life time, etc.
- Get involved in school activities. If there isn't a club
that you want to join, look into creating one you would want
to join if someone else had thought of it.
- Accept all
invitations from friends to spend a night over, to go to an
- If you are a person of faith, look into communities of
faith that might fit your belief system. The Internet makes
this super easy to do. If you are an Atheist or agnostic,
there are lots of communities for such as well - they may go
by names like secular
humanists or ethical
- Make your own plans to go to events you want to go to,
without your family. Don't let your family's disinterest keep
you from going to an event you are really interested in. Don't
go if your parents have specifically prohibited you from
going, but otherwise, if you have your parents permission,
make your own arrangements to attend sporting events,
community events or other activities without your parents.
- Take photos yourself. Ask friends to take photos of you on
your 16th birthday, on opening night of a play you are in, of
you volunteering somewhere, etc.
- Take control of your life: clean a room every day (the
bathroom is always a good choice), do your own laundry, mow
the yard without being asked, never leave clothes on the
floor, etc. Don't do it because you want acknowledgement - you
probably aren't going to get it. Do it because you want to
know how to do it before you move out some day.
- If you need to start cooking for yourself to fit your own
values, then do it. This will probably mean you have to go to
the grocery and buy food for yourself, or go to the grocery
with a parent and put things in the basket you want to eat.
You have to eat what you buy - don't ever throw large amounts
of food away (thereby wasting money).
- Look around you for young people who are in your same
situation, including your own siblings. If you suspect a
friend isn't going to have parents at that opening game
either, just like you, then buy a card for your friend
congratulating him or her on this big event. If your siblings
are just as deprived of parental support as you, then go to
their sporting events and play performances when you can -
even just a few times will make a HUGE different. Take photos
of them at their milestones - important birthdays and events -
and save these photos for them. Say the things to them that
your parents should be saying:
How did you do on your report card?
How did you do on that test you were worried about?
Who is your favorite teacher?
Great job on that test!
- If you crave hugs, and your parents don't hug, then hug
your friends and siblings, and extended family that's into
hugs. If you are freely emotional or super demonstrative, an
your parents aren't (and even mock you for such), then save it
for school, with friends who support you - and be as dramatic
and emotional as you like there! Even if some people make fun
of you for your laughs and tears and hugs, others will love
you for it.
- Celebrate yourself. Keep a journal and say at least
once a week, "I am proud of myself because..." Write about
good grades, about avoiding negative or destructive behavior,
about standing up for your values even if you lost from
friends over it, about something you learned, about something
positive you said to someone to boost their outlook or
recognize their achievement, etc. Read your journal when you
need a boost.
- If you need a break, a place to just sit and think, to
read, to write, whatever, your local library, or any park, is
a great place to do that. If there is a college or university
nearby, go there and find public spaces, such as in the
student union, where you can watch TV, study, work on your lap
top, or even eat, away from your family.
If you are a citizen of the USA or a legal permanent resident
aliens here, look into AmeriCorps
NCCC (National Civilian Community Corps), a full-time,
team-based residential program for men and women age 18-24.
AmeriCorps NCCC members receive a living allowance of
approximately $4,000 for the 10 months of service (about $200
every two weeks before taxes), housing, meals, limited medical
benefits, up to $400 a month for childcare and an education
award upon successful completion of the program. Members are
assigned to one of five campuses, located in Denver, Colorado;
Sacramento, California; Perry Point, Maryland; Vicksburg,
Mississippi; and Vinton, Iowa. The mission of AmeriCorps NCCC is
to strengthen communities and develop leaders through direct,
team-based national and community service. In partnership with
non-profits (secular and faith-based), local municipalities,
state governments, federal government, national or state parks,
Indian Tribes and schools members complete service projects
throughout the region they are assigned. Members serve in teams
of eight to 12 and are assigned to projects throughout the
region served by their campus. They are trained in CPR, first
aid, public safety, and other skills before beginning their
first service project. If you are accepted into the program, you
could use this experience to possibly get into college later, or
to seek employment with the references and skills you gain from
If you are a gay teen, and your parents are not supportive - and
even hostile - then visit It
Gets Better web site. This will connect you with the
resources you need while you are still living at home. It DOES get
Young people between 17 and 24 years old in the USA can
serve a year in the CityYear
program, as tutors, mentors and role models, helping children
stay in school. To apply, you must be a USA citizen or legal
permanent resident alien, and have a high school or diploma or
GED, or be willing to earn a GED. A college degree or some
college are great as well. You must be able to dedicate 10
months to full-time service and agree to a background or
security check. Applicants may have served no more than three
terms in another AmeriCorps, NCCC or VISTA program. Previous
experiences with service, tutoring, mentoring and leadership
help strengthen candidacy. If you are accepted into the
program, you could use this experience to possibly get into
college later, or to seek employment with the references and
skills you gain from this experience.
If you are an Atheist teen, and your parents are not
supportive - and even hostile - well... that's a challenge,
because there's no "It Gets Better" project for Atheist teens,
even though, indeed, it DOES get better! My favorite Atheist
blogs are The
Friendly Atheist and Your
Atheist Muse. Read those blogs, follow their links, and
you will find out you aren't alone, that Atheists are often
super cool, happy people (like the guys on Mythbusters! Or Penn
and Teller! Or me!), and that you have a LOT to look forward to
once you are out of your parents' home!
Your situation won't improve overnight, and it will probably
never become perfect while you are still living with your
parents. It will take ongoing effort for you to keep your
spirits up while still living at home and to create your own
support network. You will have to constantly remind yourself
that your parents are not going to change and you cannot hope
that they will - you will find yourself falling back into this
way of thinking repeatedly. But stick to your plan, stay strong,
stay persistent, and you CAN do it - you can thrive in that
unsupportive household and lay the groundwork to create a
fantastic life for yourself! You DO have control over many
things in your life, no matter how young you are! And someday,
when you are out on your own, you can relish in hearing these
words from extended family and friends: Wow; you are so
different than your parents!
Also, thing about finances. This web page of information
for teens regarding taxes, which includes a long list of
links to other sites with information, is from a company that
prepares taxes. It's one of the best curated lists anywhere of
financial information for teens.
© 2010-2016 by Jayne
Cravens, all rights reserved. No part of this material can
be reproduced in print or in electronic form without express
written permission by Jayne Cravens.