Accepting advice and dialogue

By Karen Osborne

Catholic News Service

No texting, said the doctor. There was no way I was going to make it through a week without texting. “What?” I squeaked.
“No texting, no computer, no television for a week – no screens at all, preferably. In fact, sit somewhere nice and watch the clouds go by,” he advised.
I heard this news in an urgent care center after whacking my head in the kitchen. The doctor had just finished telling me that I had sustained a mild traumatic brain injury. Unfortunately, the prescription to make me better felt a lot worse than the headaches and dizziness I was experiencing.
The concussion is essentially a “sprain” to my brain. Watching screens, which flicker and vacillate at speeds much quicker than the naked eye, is the equivalent of running a 5K race on a broken ankle. So, no screens at all are allowed during the week after you sustain one of these injuries.
Most of this doctor’s patients are athletic kids and teens, so the lecture he gave me on the dangers of texting while brain-injured was aimed at them. By the time he was done, I was seething. Who was he to tell me I couldn’t do these things? Who was he to use that tone? I was going to text if I wanted to!
On the ride home, I checked my email and was immediately hit with a headache the size of Mount Kilimanjaro.
Yep. The doctor was right.
I’ve been an adult for a little while now, entirely responsible for my own failings and foibles, so I’m not generally used to getting a lecture. But the doctor’s lecture brought up all of the old feelings of anger and frustration I had back when adults told me what to do. For a teenager just trying to figure out what life is like, those feelings are very real.
Usually, when someone gives you a lecture, it’s because they mean well, and they want to protect you from all sorts of negative consequences. It doesn’t always feel that way. It can get emotional on both sides. Adults get angry and teens return the anger, and the whole thing ends with a blasted “Go to your room!” and hurt feelings on both sides.
However, behind the bombast and the anger, there’s usually a central message that has you squarely and beneficially in mind: “I don’t want you to get hurt,” or “I care that you are happy,” or “I want you to be successful.”
Adults are supposed to be mature, but we can still get emotional, especially when we want to see the people we love do well in life. When a teen rejects advice outright, or shuts down, it doesn’t allow for the real understanding that adults and teens need to have.
It doesn’t have to be that way. You can turn a heated lecture into a reasoned dialogue. Trust me, that’s really what adults want!
When the doctor told me to stop using the computer, all I heard was someone trying to stomp all over my ability to do the work I love. I let my emotions get the best of me and I got angry, without hearing what the doctor was really saying. All he wanted to do was make sure I healed – fast.
So, despite my frustration, I’ll be putting my phone away for a little while longer. My friends will just have to call my landline.
Karen Osborne is a contributing photographer to the Catholic Review.
Copyright ©2015 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

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