Just forward this to the adults coming to Thanksgiving. You’re welcome, in advance.

Just forward this to the adults coming to Thanksgiving. You’re welcome, in advance.

Dear Well-intended Adult:

I don’t know how long it’s been since you were a kid, or a young adult, or a human with the painful awareness that your life is imperfect. 

If this was forwarded to you, I’m guessing it’s been a while since the thought of an approaching holiday like Thanksgiving sent a chill up your spine, or made your stomach lurch, or made you pray you’d miss your flight home.

Maybe you’re surprised to hear that a holiday could provoke such a negative, visceral reaction in anyone.

As a shrink in her third decade of practice, I can confirm with authority that dreading the holiday season is something of a universal, young adult experience.

In the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, my office is bursting with 20-somethings and 30-somethings who are flooded with anxiety at the thought of facing loved ones.

It’s not that they don’t love you. They adore you. They just dread talking to you.

Actually, it’s not talking to you that they abhor so much as the insensitive cross-examination, I mean, the questions that they find themselves on the receiving end of.

Questions which, no doubt, are intended to help you get to know these young people better.

The problem is, the questions you tend to ask suck.

They really don’t spawn deep insights into the Millennials in your life.

But the answers to your questions, now those leave the kids feeling naked at the table.

Naked in need of a wax. And a workout.

Their answers underscore where they rank on the Young Adult To Do List.

The Young Adult To Do List is more conceptual than it is real.

 Even so, everyone knows what’s on it:

  • Graduate high school.

  • Go to college.

  • Pick a lucrative, employable major.

  • Begin a serious, heterosexual relationship.

  • Be offered a job before graduating or within a month or two of graduating.

  • Become self-reliant (read: stop taking money from your parents) the moment you begin working.

  • Work your ass off at your job. Also, remain in that long-term, heterosexual relationship.

  • Get promoted. A lot.

  • Get engaged.

  • Get married.

  • Make babies.

The achievements on this list are sequential. If you achieve any of them in a different order, they count against you.

Also, while you’re busily crossing off the above-referenced successes, you’re expected not to wind up in jail, on drugs, in debt, or in trouble.

All of this is to say that Millennials approach the Thanksgiving dinner table with the same level of enthusiasm that a dog who’s being led to a poop accident feels.

Every year I write a list of SAY THIS INSTEAD OF THAT’s, hoping you’ll read it.

This year I’m feeling a little snarky, a little sassy, so I’ve decided to provide you with an incomplete list of Douchebag Questions, which, if asked, will make the young people at your table feel less-than, not good enough, and generally, really shitty.

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Mommie Fearest

Dear Dr. Darcy: 

My 16-year old daughter is not doing well in school and currently has a solid B average. She is constantly studying hours every day but she is doing so badly! We have tried everything from tutoring to grounding her. She knows our expectations are to do engineering, pre-med, or business but her math marks are not good and I am afraid she will have no future. What can I do to help her?

ANSWER: 

The toughest part of this question is my choice of tone in the answer. I can lean in, give it to you straight and hard, which will entertain my followers but which will likely result in you shutting down and failing to learn anything…or I can spoon feed you an answer that will be more likely to resonate with you but which will surely result in viewers falling asleep before they hit the end. This is my dilemma. And I’m not sure which way to go.

As a parent, it behooves you to view your daughter through a lens of curiosity – which is the exact opposite of having expectations that you impose upon her. Ideally you’d be curious about what she likes, what she exceeds at, where her strengths lie. Instead, you’ve chosen to ignore the very obvious data - which I find odd given your affinity for math (or is it just your daughter who needs to excel at math?) - and you’re pushing her into a narrow choice of fields which require a skillset that doesn't appear to come easily to her. Do you know how it feels to spend your life trying to master an aptitude that doesn’t come naturally? It would be like me expecting you to work in my field, to utilize emotional intelligence on a daily basis.

If you choose to stay on this course, your child will continue to attempt to meet your highly unreasonable expectations, which will destroy her self-esteem and undermine her sense of self, the combination of which is the strongest indicator of life happiness or misery. THIS, not her choice of career, will result in a lifetime handicap, impacting every aspect of her world.  So you see, you have a decision to make: Let her live her life or force her to fail at yours.

Your daughter is doing very well, despite your parenting. The people who run this world and who make 7-figures tend to be the B and C students. Those are the people who become entrepreneurs, who create products, cures, and mathematical equations that change the world. Stop trying to bang a square peg into a round hole, and be grateful that you haven’t provoked an adolescent rebellion to rival our definition thereof.

In the final analysis, I’m not sure which tone I chose. Hopefully one that resonates with you – for your daughter’s sake.

  

Father Doesn’t Know Best

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Dear Dr. Darcy:

My father has no concept of my privacy. I’m 14 years old and he refuses to wait for me to say come in when he knocks on the [bedroom] door. He knocks and opens it at the same time. This is a big problem for me when I just come out of the shower and I’m changing in my room. He still thinks I’m a child but I’m not ok with him seeing me naked or in my bra and underwear. How do I tell my father that I’m a teenager and I deserve privacy?

ANSWER

You are absolutely right. As a teenager, you deserve to have a few seconds notice before someone comes into your room, and the knock-push (as I call it), is frustrating because it gives the illusion of respect without the follow through.

Sometimes parents have a hard time accepting that their children are growing up. It doesn’t make it right – it’s just to put his behavior in context.  But it’s imperative that you learn that it’s OK to set boundaries. Because the boundaries you set today will turn into the boundaries you set when you’re dating – and we want you to be able to express when something doesn’t feel right (You hear this, parents? A submissive child turns into a submissive adult).

I don’t know what your family is made up of, but if you have a second parent, that would be my first step towards fixing this. Presuming you do (and if you don’t, please let me know and I’ll repost a new answer), I’d speak to that parent and tell them exactly what you’ve told me. In particular, I’d emphasize the just-out-of-the-shower moment. It’s a hard scenario to argue with – even for a parent who’s in denial that his daughter is morphing into a young woman.

Writer’s Stats: Female, Straight.