By Arathi Devandran, Masalamommas Intern
There are so many times when the words “generation gap” get thrown around all too often, sometimes by flippant, pubescent teenagers, and sometimes by exasperated parents. All too often, the root cause of problems between parents and their children arise from communication problems. An ironic situation indeed, when we live in a time and age where communication has been simplified with the development of telecommunication.
What parents need to realise about individuals going through the painstaking years of puberty (and yes, this might be a bit outdated coming from me) is that more often than not, teenagers (and young adolescents) have a really hard time trying to deal with the physical and hormonal changes and the influx of emotions that they experience. Everything just seems “wrong” and “difficult”, and the world is suddenly made up of “fifty shades of grey” instead of the black and white that had been the norm till recently. What teenagers want, is mostly acceptance. They tend to get this from their friends who are going through similar situations, and hence, there’s always a greater tendency for them to gravitate away from their parents, and towards their besties.
Like everyone else, I’ve gone through my fair share of communication difficulties with my parents as well. Coming from a small nuclear family, my parents spent a lot of time emphasising on the need to communicate. They had the tough job of trying to be my friends, and my disciplinarians at the same time, sometimes succeeding, and sometimes failing in their attempts to do so. In hindsight, they agree that the best thing they did at that time was to give me the freedom to make my own decisions, and to deal with the consequences, both the good and the bad.
I spent quite a fair bit of time discussing my issues with my friends, grumbling about how our parents wouldn’t let us out to catch a movie, or go for a sleepover, or out shopping. Interestingly enough, the common grievances that my friends and I had brought us closer together than before. It was also heartening to know that I wasn’t the only one who was getting the short end of the stick in family discussions; there was a common conspiracy among the parental units, or so we thought.
When I felt that I was being unfairly treated (and we all know how everything is seen to be ‘unfair’ at that age), I voiced my concerns.
Problems usually came about when I was given instructions without being told why I was supposed to do something in a particular way. I’m not sure how many of you find this a pet peeve, but I don’t particularly take to authoritative instructions well, and this became quite the issue when I grew older. That’s when communicating with my parents became an absolute essential. When we talked things out, on some days, decisions were made in my favour. And…on most days, they weren’t. Not that this surprised me by any measure, but having that ability to say what I wanted to say to them appeased me because I felt I was being heard, at the very least. What worked for me was heart-to-hearts with my parents. Even if the overall conclusion for an issue wasn’t something that I agreed with them on, we were (usually) able to come up with some kind of compromise that appeased both parties.
I’m sure that this isn’t an experience that is solely unique to me. The best way for this situation to be addressed, is for parents to emphasise the need for communication. Even if it means that all they can get out of their kids would be the occasional grunt, it’s a step in the right direction when children begin to respond to their parents. For parents who read this, I can speak with some credibility as a member of the Gen Y community, that all children and teenagers want to be, is to be heard, and to be treated in a manner where they have some say in their own lives. This includes using telecommunication in the best way possible as well.
I’ve always found it easier to communicate through the written word rather than the spoken word. If there’s something that I’m not particularly comfortable expressing to my parents face to face, I still turn to things like letters (yes, you may laugh), text messages, emails, etc etc. And my parents have accepted my idiosyncrasy and respond accordingly. If your child’s big on texting, Skyping, Facebooking etc., reaching out through those means might be a start. Naturally, there’s always the flipside of ‘trying too hard’, but that’s something that can only be determined through trial and error.
All said and done, communication problems will exist, but I personally believe that parents have to take the initiative to bridge the “generation gap” that exists between them and their children. Only because children might not be fully able to grasp the situation due to their age and lack of experience. Parents should then take the opportunity to use whatever is available to them to reach out to their children, and a smoother channel of communication is guaranteed.
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