What are kids really thinking?

What thoughts run through your child's head?
What thoughts run through your child's head? Photo: Getty

​It's not easy to figure out what our kids are really thinking and feeling. A survey conducted by Ellen Galinsky of youth ranging from eight through 18 years of age gives us some surprising insights into their worlds.

1. Kids' greatest wish is that we were less stressed and tired. I was one of the 98 percent of the parents who got this one wrong. I would have thought that young people would have wanted for more time and attention from us.

It's really tough balancing being a good parent with our many other demands. In many ways, kids interact with us when we are at our worst, physically and emotionally drained after a long day at work.

2. Most of us like our jobs. Most of our kids think we don't. While 60 percent of us like our jobs "a lot," most kids reported that their parents didn't enjoy their work. Our conversations at dinner are more apt to reflect our annoyances at work rather than what was enjoyable or rewarding.

Our jobs are never always fun or frustrating. We need to give our children a more realistic view of life beyond school. It's just as important to relate some of the satisfying aspects of what we do rather than just whine about our problems.

3. Teens, rather than our younger children, want more time with us. Parents tend to spend more time with younger children. They need more of our guidance, and often are more enthusiastic about doing things with us. It's tricky to figure out how to be with teenagers. They seem preoccupied with being with friends or alone in their room.

It's surprising to read that they want more time with us. This takes a bit of negotiating with teens. We can't be expected to just wait around until they are ready to interact with us.

4. Teens reported we don't know what's really going on in their lives. We think we do. Teens reported that only 31 percent of their dads and 35 percent of their mums have a good understanding of their lives.

Don't be too discouraged by these low scores. One of the important tasks of adolescence is to separate emotionally from your parents. This means that young adults will keep things a bit more private and solve problems on their own.

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Parents need to find that delicate balance of showing caring and concern without being intrusive.

5. Kids remember the little things. Parents think kids remember the big things. When asked what you'll remember most from your childhood, kids reported family rituals such as a wake-up song sung by a mum. Parents thought their kids would remember big things such as family holidays.

Dr. Gregory Ramey is the executive director of Dayton Children Hospital's Pediatric Center for Mental Health Resources. 

The New York Times