Teenagers are suffering the pangs of sex, desire and distrust, independence and all sorts of other emotions. They are as if ill during this time. In Moscow one cold 1990 winter evening, the astrophysicist Carl Sagan (photo) told me they are poisoned by their own hormones. For boys, he called it “testosterone poisoning.” This observation is nothing new. Over two thousand years ago, the Greek philosopher Plato lamented, “What is happening to our young people? They disrespect their elders. They disobey their parents. They riot in the street, in-flamed with wild notions. Their morals are decaying. What is to become of them?” Sound familiar? Parents now, as then, must be the mother, father, nurse and doctor. I say that because they are as if incapacitated, needing healing and special care. And not unimportantly, when a patient is delirious, the nurse does not pay all that much attention to the ranting and ravings. Similarly, reason does not mean the same thing to you as it does to your teenager. So, be a friend. Both parents must talk privately together and work out a strategy for the next seven years, from age 13 to 19. It will be over in only seven years and all will be well.

Soon, they will be raising their children in the very same way you raised yours, with deep appreciation for how you had the patience, the willpower, the forbearance and the love—mainly love—to raise them and endure their unending stress. Those of you who have children in the testosterone and estrogen years, proceed with confidence. Keep smiling and keep loving. Keep remembering your teenage years. That may help unstress the stress that is daily making you both stronger and stronger. 

When you have successfully performed your seven-year tapas of stressful fire in bearing up under the strain and pain of the teenager, truly you will enjoy great satisfaction and be able to sit back and smile. Have compassion and give some leniency, for during this time they are all mixed up and emotionally frustrated inside; they are, truly they are. They are facing an uncertain future in an unsure world, becoming adult, keeping in with their peers, keeping in with their parents, striving for excellence in education, facing marriage, job, career and community expectations. 

No wonder so many become suicidal, because their parents just don’t understand and are not there for them at a time when they truly need them. Don’t let this happen in your family. Please don’t.  Be a stern but loving Mom. Be a strong but understanding Dad. Be a gentle nurse. Be a wise doctor. And, most of all, be a good friend—their friend, their closest friend—during this tumultuous, turbulent, troublesome
time called teenage. 

Here is a suicide letter a Malaysian Hindu girl wrote before she attempted to end her life at age 18. One of the reasons she cited was too much pressure from her parents. Too much verbal abuse and, we can assume, physical abuse, starting with pinching, then slapping, leading to uncontrolled beatings, as simply a way of life. Is this Hindu culture? It threatens to become so.

Dear Mom and Dad: You’ll never understand why I did this. Never. In your opinion, you always did what was best for me. You always knew what was best for me. You always believed I was your naive, irresponsible little girl who always needed your hand to hold onto. You thought it was necessary to use the sharp edge of your tongue to keep me on the “right track.”

I never had any say in my own life. Did you realize that that “right track” became a psychological prison for me? That your leading hand became a set of chains for me? That the sharp side of your tongue got to be a barbed wire that was continuously lashing out at me? No, you never did. Didn’t you ever stop to think that maybe I should have some say in what I wanted to do with my life? You decided which college would be the right one for me to attend and what academic field I should go into. The college, of course, had to be the most prestigious and elite one so you could brag to your friends about it. You never thought that maybe I wanted something more than school and books, but that was never important to you. You only wanted me to achieve academically so your friends would be duly impressed. That was the same reason that you wanted me to become a doctor. I didn’t want anything to do with it.

You never realized that maybe I had wanted a social life. To make real friends for once in my life. When I told you that, you scoffed at me and told me that we Indians were so much superior that we didn’t need to deal with “them.” There was never anything in my life that you let me have any control over. When I finally met someone who meant something to me, you two couldn’t handle the fact that maybe someday I would learn to control my own life and rid myself of your manipulations. So, then you decided who it was that I was going to see and who it was that I didn’t. You forced me to break the first real relationship that I ever had in my life. I was constantly harassed by you about him. You told me that I was disgracing the family name. “…what would everyone say?” You destroyed everything for me. This “relationship” between us is nothing but a farce. And there is no reason to continue it. I have searched for some way to escape you, but I have come up empty handed. Now you must live with this guilt. I hope you will never be able to forgive yourself.

She lived through this ordeal. In contacting our editors, she testified that she now knows suicide is not the way out and allowed the publishing of this very personal letter with the hope that her battle with suicide would help others—parents and children—deal better with problems before they reach hopelessness.