Home article When Your Parents Are Never Around

When Your Parents Are Never Around

When Your Parents Are Never Around

It’s hard enough being a teen these days, without any added problems or pressures.  But when your parents are never around, things can get really tough.

While many teens might think that having total freedom and no parents to boss them around and nag them would be a dream come true, the reality is that it’s not the wonderful life that it sounds like it would be.  It is hard, lonely and anxiety provoking to be basically on your own before you are developmentally ready for that enormous responsibility.

Think about all of the things that a parent typically does or helps their teenager do: make sure they’re awake for school and get them there on time, pack a lunch or give them money for lunch, ask about homework and tests, prepare dinner and clean up, keep things clean and tidy, get them to extra-curricular activities, help utilize available resources as needed, communicate with the school about important things, schedule doctor’s appointments and do so much more.

It’s true that as a teenager, you should be taking on more of more of these responsibilities for yourself, but that doesn’t mean you are ready to be thrown full force ahead into an adult life all at once.  As much as teenagers might not to want to admit it, they still need their parents.  They need them for love and support, structure, guidance and boundaries.  Without all of these things, it is difficult to navigate the transition from teen to adult.

Why are these things all so important?  Let’s take a look.

  • Guidance – this is all of the gentle pushing and prodding and lecturing that parents do. It’s reminding you not to use drugs and to have safe sex.  It’s leading by example and telling you to stay in school and even go to college.  It’s helping guide you in the right direction for a successful future.
  • Love – let’s face it. Everyone needs and deserves to be loved.  A parent’s love is unconditional, so they should always be there for you, even when you make a mistake or bad decision.  There is a lot of comfort in knowing that you are loved.
  • Support – this means that when you fail, your parent still encourages you to get back up and try again. When you are stressed or having a tough time, they try to help you out.
  • Structure – this means that parents don’t just let you lay around all the time doing nothing. They build some structure into your life.  You have things to do and a time to do them, hopefully including chores, homework, family time and friends.
  • Boundaries – these are so important in life, so you need to learn these at home. This could be anything from curfew, speaking respectfully, and basically not just letting you do whatever you want whenever you want to.

All of these are crucial to your transition from a teenager into a secure, stable and successful adult.  Unfortunately for many of you, there are many circumstances that make it so your parents can’t be around and you’re basically left to raise yourself.  Whether they are incarcerated, out partying or using drugs, or just working all the time to make ends meet, the toll it takes on you can be the same.

But you are a good kid and you want to do well and be successful, right?  So what can you do if your parents are never around to ensure you are okay?

Here are some tips for how to survive and thrive if you are raising yourself:

  • Try to find another adult to be a sort of mentor to you. This could be a coach, a friend’s parent, a teacher, or even a neighbor.  Make sure it is someone you respect and look up to, and let them know your situation.  Most caring adults are happy to step in and offer guidance.
  • Make sure you have some structure in your day. Don’t just sleep all day and lay around.  Get up and go to school, get involved in something productive outside of school, like sports or a youth group.  Find a part-time job and just keep yourself busy with positive things.
  • In any given situation, when you’re trying to figure out what the right thing to do is, ask yourself what someone else’s parent might say or what you might say if you were a parent. This kind of role playing can help guide you.
  • You are smart and you know right from wrong. So, you have to decide what kind of person you want to be.  Do you want to be a problem teen who ruins his own future by making bad decisions, or do you want to be an upstanding person who has a bright future?
  • Make school a priority. Education is knowledge, and knowledge is power.  You can be anything you want to be if you work hard enough.
  • Surround yourself with people who love you. These can be other family members, friends, people on a team, etc.  They will be there to catch you when you fall.
  • Most importantly, love yourself. Believe in yourself.  You are worthy and lovable and unique and talented.  Follow your dreams.  Don’t let anything get in the way.
  • Find the silver lining. Even though things might be tough right now, you’re getting a head start on responsibility and adulthood.  This can give you an advantage in the years to come.  You won’t have the same struggles as other teens might when they leave home for the very first time.

Remember that your current circumstances are not your fault.  You’re just a kid caught up in a reality created by your own parents.  Try your best to stay positive and hold your head up hight.  If you feel that you are truly being neglected and cannot manage on your own, please reach out to a trusted adult and confide in them or call The Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-422-4453, you local child protective services, or the police.  You are not alone.


Lori Freson Lori Freson is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Southern California. She has been working in the mental health field since 1997, and has been a licensed therapist since 2002. Lori currently works in her own thriving private practice in Encino and Sherman Oaks, where she serves the San Fernando Valley and Los Angeles areas.
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