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I’m 17 and I have my driver's license and I’m legally old enough for many things. However, my parents have not allowed me to drive ever since I upgraded from my permit to my license. I have also been told I’m not allowed to get a job. I’m not allowed to have sleepovers and I can barely see people on weekdays (m-f) even with online school 4 days a week (not Wednesdays). I have to watch my friends do fun things without me all the time because they always say no. When they take my phone, my mom reads all my messages, dms, watches every Tik Tik I’ve sent people, and reads snap conversations from years ago. I get interrogated about every single person on my phone. I’m not allowed to date because “they don’t think I’m ready” and I’m not allowed to hang out with a boy alone or ever be alone with one even if it’s my guy best friend or church friends.

When I tell them I’m going to be an adult in a year and I need to start doing things and I should be allowed to, they get incredibly mad and say how concerned they are that I would say that. I’ve tried reasoning when I ask to do things like “why is is so bad for me to do something fun like go snowboarding” and “why can’t I have a sleepover when there’s no school” and they just think I’m crazy.

I hate my life and I feel there’s no point to it when all they want me to do is clean or do school work. My friends don’t understand and they don’t have to deal with anything like this. My parents are my biggest issue in my life. I cry probably 6/7 days a week and I hate being home. I get a sick feeling every time I’m getting dropped off or have to say goodbye to my friends. I’m not sure if this is normal, my friends say it is not normal for a 17 year old. Sometimes I think I would be so much better off dead and it would finally show my parents how miserable they make me. However, when I do get to see my friends I have so much fun and I love being alive. That’s what keeps me going, getting to be with the people I love that make me happy. I just don’t understand why my parents don’t want me to have a good life they want me to just do exactly what they want every second of the day. I feel suffocated and controlled. It’s gotten to the point where I love my friends parents more that my own and I want to either die or run away.

What are some ways I can cope with this because it hurts so much getting left out of things because of them. What are some ways I can cope with the sadness of watching my friends experience their teen years without me? What are some ways I can get them to loosen up on me? What can I say that will actually get to their head? How can I present what they’re doing to me in a respectful way?

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  • Can't you just wait one year, then move out and never see your parents again? – robertspierre Feb 4 at 11:43
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First, I want to confirm that how your parents are treating you is not ok. The answer by dxh is excellent at making clear why.

I don't think you can convince your parents. The actual answer to how do I convince my parents to be less strict would be to have an actual conversation where both sides are heard, where your parents voice their concerns about risks etc, you get a chance to offer mitigation methods, and together you explore how plausible and severe those risks actually are. If your parents refuse to justify their decisions, and chose to ignore the fact that you'll be an adult in less than a year, there is no basis for such a conversation.

Hang in there. While it sucks to have your life on hold, less than a year is a managable time. Shift your focus on how you will use your freedom then, and away from the things you are kept from now. Underage runaways are one of the most vulnerable groups there are, and running away would quite certainly make your situation worse. If you fear extreme actions from your parents (physical violance, forced marriage, being carted of to some unfamiliar place), consider seeking temporary refuge with the family of friends, and contact child protection services.

Prepare for your birthday. It seems unlikely to me that your parents will simply cease their efforts to control you once you turn 18. You should be prepared for them to simply ignore it, or to use variants of the as long as you live in my house gambit. Is there someone safe to stay with for a while after you've turned 18? What do you want to do then? In what city do you want to live? How will you find a longer term place to stay? How will you get money? Can you stash away some money now?

Starting to live as an independent adult can be scary even if your parents have properly prepared you. Unfortunately, you may have to try a self-learning crash course in adulting instead.

By figuring these things out now you accomplish three things: It will make your lack of freedom easier to bear if you can work towards a brighter future. And by having a plan in place, you will be better able resist parental attempts to bully you into continuing to accept their authority. Finally, this means that you'll cope with the challenges of striking out on your own once the time has come.

The why doesn't matter for now. I understand how burning the question of why your parents treat you the way they do can be. But it is not a productive question to ponder now. It is not your fault, and it is not your responsibility. It it is still bugging you in a few years in the midst of the great life you are going to built for yourself, discuss it with your therapist then. Or, to be optimistic for a chance, this is something for your parents to discuss with their therapist prior to asking you for forgiveness.

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    On the preparing for birthday aspect, would it be good to suggest also making sure documentation is available for after leaving (e.g. birth certificate, social security card, ids)? – JonTheMon Feb 8 at 19:47
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I like to use the UN Conventions on the Rights of the Child as a baseline. I know there are mixed feelings about that. It's not ratified into law in the US, if that's where you're from, and its primary focus is how states act with respect to children, rather than how parents act.

Even so, ratified or not, they are almost universally recognized as basic human rights, and I think they should have some persuasive power on what constitutes good parenting. I'm not surprised if there's nothing that will persuade your parents, in which case I'm leaving this here to at least answer your question that what you're experiencing is not normal, and you're right to expect greater autonomy.

Regarding your right to autonomy:

Article 12

  1. States Parties shall assure to the child who is capable of forming his or her own views the right to express those views freely in all matters affecting the child, the views of the child being given due weight in accordance with the age and maturity of the child.

Note that the comment, "due weight in accordance with the age and maturity of the child" gives some window for interpretation, but seeing as these rights are specific to children, 17 should be leaning towards the more autonomous extreme on that scale.

Regarding reading through your messages, my emphasis:

Article 16

  1. No child shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his or her privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to unlawful attacks on his or her honour and reputation.

  2. The child has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.

I don't know where you're from, and I'm not acquainted with the legislation in every nation, but what you describe sounds like something the equivalence of child protective services would take action on. If you cannot persuade your parents, I recommend you to reach out for assistance from whichever institutions are available where you are.

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The existing answers covered a lot and I agree with all of them. To complement, a few other points:

  1. Is any of this COVID related? 1 year ago, did your parents let you have sleepovers and go snowboarding, etc? Maybe they are just being very protective now because they are being very cautious about getting coronavirus. Maybe your friend's parents are being very lax and not taking proper precautions. If this has been a consistent trend your whole life, then disregard this. But if it has just changed in the past year, then maybe that's the reason. That doesn't cover the looking at your phone, tiktoks, etc, but it might explain everything else. E.g., I don't let my kid see anybody outside of school except occasionally a few family members because of COVID (although, he's 3 so he doesn't know any different).

  2. You mentioned "church friends". This implies that you attend church at least somewhat regularly. Depending on your church, there may be a pastor/priest/elder/etc that you could talk to about the situation that might be able to mediate things with your parents. This would definitely depend on the church though. Some churches might actually be the source of the problem here.

  3. I agree with Arno's suggestion about preparing for your birthday. But, to make the time between then and now more bearable, try to find some new hobby that you genuinely enjoy that your parents are okay with. Teach yourself guitar, or how to cook, or take up photography or painting or writing or something. Just so that you know you have something you can do when you go home to take your mind off of things. You can't really change your situation, so don't dwell on it. Find something else to focus on. Obviously this won't be your first choice of activity, but it will be better than sitting around the house all day being mad/sad.

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    Although some aspects of the question can be viewed in that light, I think this is still abusive, and we shouldn't use the pandemic to explain away abuse. Reading someone's private messages and disallowing them to drive despite having a license is not reasonable pandemic precautions. I don't know about other countries, but in Sweden, this (the messages part) would be illegal under the law that protects children from physical punishment and other acts of violation. – dxh Feb 8 at 7:34
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First, I'm sorry that I can't provide an answer what you should do to change your parents' approach. It reads like you did all you could. But: It's only a year before you have all the freedoms to live your life as you see fit. If this means finding a job, moving out, cutting contact to your parents - I don't recommend any of this, but these are options that will be available to you within one year. So, there's light at the end of the tunnel, and a quite short tunnel as it is.

If at any point in between now and your 18th birthday your thoughts about death become any more than a throwaway comment: Get help! There are telephone helplines, doctors, teachers who may help you or get you the help you need. Do take this seriously.

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