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Book helps teens, parents talk

by Merrie Leininger

Teen-agers are notoriously close-mouthed with their parents, but Pau-Wa-Lu Middle School teacher Miki Trujillo hopes her book, “Why Can’t We Talk?” will help teen-agers open up to their parents.

Trujillo claims teens “are the true authors of this book,” because hundreds of teen-agers submitted essays about issues that affect them every day – divorce, drugs, sex, acceptance and alcohol – and the book is aimed at other teen-agers.

“I wanted to give the teens a voice. I think a lot of them feel alone, like they are the only ones going through whatever problem. I wanted them to see they are not alone. There are other kids out there going through the same things,” she said.

For three years, Trujillo gathered essays from teen-agers across the country by calling schools and talking to teens, even when she was on vacation.

But the idea came from her own classroom. Trujillo teaches health at PWLMS and after hearing the complaint, “My parents never listen to me,” one too many times, she assigned her students to write down what they wish they could tell their parents.

Trujillo said when she read the papers, she realized teens and their parents needed to be reading them.

Carson Valley teen-agers’ thoughts are included in the book, but you would never know it. She changed all the names and even some of the details of their stories, so they couldn’t be identified.

“I knew for them to write from their hearts, they had to know they wouldn’t implicate themselves,” she said.

The feedback from teen-agers has been positive.

She said one student took the book home and shared it with her mother, with whom she had been having communication problems.

“She came back saying, ‘Mrs. T, it works.’ It made me feel like, this is the point. This is why I wrote it,” Trujillo said.

If I could talk to my parents, this is what I’d say: Just because I try to keep all my emotions in doesn’t mean that I don’t care. When I’ve done stuff in the past, please don’t hold it against me. Don’t underestimate me because I am a girl and a teen. People grow and learn from their mistakes. I’m not stupid; I can think. Take me as I am.

Tabatha, 15

Trujillo said she wants teens to read her book so they will have hope, but she wants parents to read her book so they might learn how to listen to their children.

“I think there is a huge correlation between parent-teen communication and health decisions. I hope when parents read this book, they will be able to read with every part – with their heads and their hearts – because if a teen is asking them to read it, they are asking them to listen to them,” she said.

Trujillo said while compiling essays from so many teens, she learned a thing or two herself.

“Oh, I learned so much. I learned how much kids want and need to be listened to. I learned kids, in fact, want to communicate with their parents and, in many cases, want boundaries but don’t know how to ask. If they could go to their parents for advice without fear of getting in trouble, they would make healthier decisions,” she said.

Sometimes I feel peer pressure from my friends, like I have to reach up to their level. I want to talk with my parents about it, but they don’t understand what I am going through. They start yelling at me, even though what I am trying tell them is important. It seems like they don’t have enough time to really sit and listen.

Andrew, 15

The book provides advice from, and experiences of, teens, but at the end of each chapter, Trujillo includes a section called “T Talk” in which she gives suggestions to teens and parents.

“Each chapter has about 20 excerpts, and at the end of each chapter, I encourage or give guidelines on whatever the topic is. I try to help teens, but also help them see their parents’ side of it,” she said.

Trujillo said her family is a big part of the reason the book is a reality. Her husband, David Trujillo, a chiropractor, encouraged her to write the book and edited it, and her children, Dani, 6, and Corey, 9, helped by suggesting pseudonyms for the teens and ideas about graphics.

Trujillo said she hopes, ultimately, that she learned something from writing the book and will be a better parent because of it.

Trujillo said her experiences with her parents growing up were, like many teen-agers, positive.

“I had a great relationship with my parents and I think I have a great rapport with teens now. I realize not all teens have problems communicating with their parents, and there’s even a chapter in the book for them, but so many teens are frustrated and sad,” she said.

The book will be available this weekend at Barnes and Noble, Waldenbooks and Borders book stores in Reno. It is also available through the Internet. Just go to http://www.whycantwetalk.com. At that site, she is also taking submissions for future books, one of which will be about teens and faith.

Book signings are also in the works, one locally at Classical Glass on Highway 395, Saturday, May 6, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Here is my advice to parents: Listen to your kids, they might actually know what they’re talking about. Help your kids take steps up, not down, Let them breathe when they want space, but know that when kids say “leave me alone,” that is when they need you the most. Let them be their own person. Give them privacy. If you are snooping, then you are obviously not easy to talk to. And most important, let them know they are loved and beautiful, and that you are proud of them no matter what! Good luck!

Kim, 17