TODAY   |  December 04, 2013

Parents advise on how to survive the turbulent teens

Jenna Bush Hager continues TODAY’s “Inside the Teenage Mind” series, this time talking with parents of teens and getting their reactions as they watch their children talk about their relationships with their mothers and fathers.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> now we want to turn to more of our series inside the teenage mind. today general ma bush-hager spent a day having a very honest talk with a group of teenagers and this morning some of their parents are here to watch with us. jenna, good morning to you.

>> good morning. many parents are concerned about the pressures teens face. so this series is really striking a cord. but how open and honest can teens be with their parents?

>> i feel pressure with drugs and alcohol all the time.

>> reporter: the lives of teens today filled with complex issues. like relationships and sex.

>> they come up to you and be like i had sex last night.

>> reporter: drugs.

>> we have all this weed and you should really come.

>> reporter: and the pressure to please.

>> my parents realized putting all of this pressure was breaking and i was cracking. it wasn't a good thing. when they started relaxing and were more encouraging when i did good and tried hard i was more relaxed.

>> people think teenagers are lazy. but no i'm working hard trying to get good grades and trying to keep it together.

>> reporter: amid the chaos of being a teenager, the relationship with parents can be complicated. sometimes honesty comes at a cost.

>> are there things you wish you could talk to your parents about that you can't?

>> what?

>> situations with my friends. i feel like i can't talk about a lot of stuff that my friends do or happened to them or something that happened to me.

>> because of judgment, maybe?

>> yeah.

>> if i tell my mom my friend blah blah was drinking. she'll say are you going to hang out with that friend? are you going to be okay?

>> if i'm on the phone my dad's like who are you texting. oh, you know, just someone. did you send a naked picture or something.

>> do you feel like you can tell your parents the truth about the things you go through?

>> i don't. i could look back and say i should be honest with my parents but at times they can't understand. there's been times where i made mistakes and i can't tell them the truth because i don't want to hurt them.

>> i have a rule. like if i drink, i can be like mom, i drank. sorry. so i always tell her the truth, like i never get in trouble. if she finds out from someone then i'm disowned.

>> many say their parents are their backgroubone.

>> my dad says i was going through the same thing when i was growing up.

>> reporter: and a lot of teens say it's easier opening up to one parent than another.

>> my mom is my best friend . i can trust her. it's different with dad.

>> dad wasn't want to hear from his little girl . i have been drinking all night.

>> but my mom understands. i can tell her what's going on and she'll get it and help me.

>> reporter: when kelly felt like she was hitting rock bottom , at first she was afraid to worry her parents.

>> this one girl told me that if i killed myself then no one would care and through the internet i was receiving a lot of cyber bullying messages. like anonymous things saying go drink bleach.

>> who did support you? did you have friends or family that helped you get through it?

>> i hid everything at my family at first. i wasn't going to be like hey, mom, this is going on. but after working with, you know, family therapy and things like that, i found that my parents were a huge support. i thought they weren't going to understand but they really understood.

>> reporter: and when the teens were left all alone, guess who they say they admire most.

>> my mom.

>> my dad the most. as i grow up i see myself becoming a lot more like him.

>> your parents are raising you. they're the people you can go to even at times when you're angry with them. they're going to be there for you. it's unconditional love with your parents which you don't really have with a lot of other people.

>> i just want to give a shout out to these amazing teens and their parents who raised great kids. they were so open and honest and we appreciate it.

>> they were brave to sit here and watch it. what do their parents think? we're joined by brook's mom and callie's dad and griffin's parents. good morning to all of you. raise your hand if you're feeling better about things after watching that? raise your hands if you still think you can talk to your kids about anything. any subject.

>> no?

>> well, i don't think she wants me to talk to her about everything and i'm okay with that as long as she is prepared to come to me if something goes wrong and i can help her.

>> if she were to come to you and say dad i need to talk to you about issues involving sex or drugs, do you think you could handle it?

>> i can handle it. i don't know that we're in a relationship yet where she's going to do it but i could deal with it.

>> you have a policy with your daughter that as long as she comes to you and she is honest, she never gets in trouble basically.

>> correct.

>> are there limits to that approach as well?

>> yes, there's always a boundary between friend and mother. but i had to make a decision. i wanted to know and i wanted an open line of communication. so kids are always afraid of getting in trouble. i went to her and i said you can tell me anything, you won't get in trouble if you come to me. but if i find out, you know, it's a different story.

>> so be proactive about it.

>> you guys, with your son, you say look, you know, you don't really believe in the just say no idea when it comes to drugs and alcohol and things like that. why not?

>> because, you know, in our opinion, kids when you tell them not to do something, there's a natural tendency to be drawn toward it. we're very honest about drugs, alcohol, sex for that matter. people don't do those things for no reason. they don't continue to do them just because of addiction. if you do this, you're probably going to feel good in the short-term and then we go into why people continue to do it. what happens in the long-term. watch these people.

>> it's a carefully thought out strategy which is good. the internet, is this something that keeps you guys up at night? do you worry about this? what your kids are doing online?

>> i worry more about the direct access that everybody has to my daughter because she has got the smartphone. and my fear is more the people she knows and what they're saying to her than it is the internet.

>> we started this by asking you to raise your hands if you're feeling comfortable about this. raise your hands if you have snooped on your child in terms of their online behavior.

>> no, yes.

>> not intentionally.

>> no?

>> i do internet security for a living.

>> you're the worst nightmare.

>> the things i have seen them access is what i would probably access if i were a teenager, but we never try to filter any of the media that our kids look at. what we try to do is help them interpret it. we're not trying to raise a good boy and girl. we want to raise good men and women.

>> and ten seconds left. a new mom. what did you learn from this experience?

>> well, the one thing they all agreed on is that their parents are their role models. so i think we as adults need to know that we're raising these kids and it's the most important job we can ever have. so good job to all of you.

>> well done. thank you so much. jenna, thank you as well. you can join the conversation by heading to