Teenage is a tumultuous time, for parents and the teens, of course! We take you on a meaningful journey with a mother and a teenager to learn how they reach common ground and connect with each other.
By Jasmine Kaur
Not many 13-year-olds can claim to be published authors. And even fewer, if any, can claim to have written a book with their mother. Parthivi Mohunta has done both. She recently published Mumteen with her mother, Ruchi Mohunta, who also happens to be a positive psychologist.
This book, published in August 2018, not only talks about the mother-daughter bond but hopes to inspire other parents and teenagers as well. The duo got the idea for the book when Ruchi stumbled across an old diary she had written when she was herself a teen. She shared it with Parthivi and they laughed over it. And that was when they realised that teens, whether in the previous generation, or the current one, face similar struggles. So, they came up with the idea for the book.
Mumteen explores 13 topics that often leads to arguments between teens and parents. In an exclusive conversation ParentCircle discusses five of these themes with the authors.
You said you could tell your daughter was feeling anxious on the day of her results. How do parents guess their child's feelings?
Ruchi: Many times you have to observe a child’s behaviour before an event. He will not come up to you and say he is anxious or scared or afraid. These are not emotions that they are able to voice. What comes out is irritation, sadness and anger — which is really nothing but their camouflaged anxiety.
So, I noticed how anxious she was the day before, the phone calls from her friends and the build up around the results. I also noted her saying things like 'It's not important', 'I don't think I will make it', so on. As parents, you need to keep an eye on your child's behaviour as well as language.
When teens struggle with failure, what kind of support are they looking for, from their parents?
Parthivi: Typically, parents tend to ground us. I think if parents were a bit more accepting that their kid might not be the best in the class, it could improve a lot of communication. Then the child won't feel as scared. Children just want acceptance, not lectures.
You mentioned you may have unintentionally signalled to your daughter that 'She was what her academic scores depicted.' How do parents do this?
Ruchi: When we typically talk to our children after school, we only ask questions like 'What did you learn today?' 'How are academics?' 'What homework have you got?' Everything is centred around academics. This sends a message to the teen that 'This is the most important part of your life’.
Along with this, when the results come out, parents ask questions like: 'Where did you go wrong?’ ‘How will you improve your scores?’ ‘What was the highest score?’ ‘How much did your friend get?’ This is not about the child, but about every else around the child. This again sends the signal 'If you are doing as well as others in your class, I accept you, if not, you aren't worthy.'
How can teens ask for help from their parents?
Parthivi: You can always start with simply saying, 'I don't understand'. You have to be honest, always. Don't just say 'I'll get it next time.' If you need help, you should ask for it.
Do you feel that teens of today don’t understand the value of money and ask for things without giving much thought?
Ruchi: I can't generalise about all teens because that is wrong. But money is not valued as much as it was in our generation. And there is also a sense of entitlement when it comes to money. Many times there is not even any gratitude that you have got the money. It is just taken for granted and that is where I feel the value of money has gone down.
How does it feel when your mother compares her growing-up years with yours?
Parthivi: I find it annoying at times, because at that time, Rs 20 was enough for an entire month! But, in this day and age, Rs 100 is practically nothing sometimes. When you go to a clothing store, you don't get anything for 100 bucks. Sometimes, when you go out with friends you feel like you need to have a certain amount with you. My mom and I didn't grow up in the same social setting, so I may have different values around money than she does.
What should parents do when they only get monosyllabic answers from their teens?
Ruchi: Parents and teens are equally responsible for this kind of behaviour. Parents might only focus on things like academics or other topics they are concerned about. There's no general conversation, for example about a movie, a book or, a fashion trend. On the other hand, teens feel disconnected, because they think that parents don't understand their music, dressing sense, language, etc.
However, it's not hard to talk to teens. Parents can start a conservation by not focussing on academics. They can even talk about their own failures, anxieties and troubles. This opens up the conversation, when teens feel they can talk about other topics. It's up to the parents to keep the lines of communication open, because teens have their friends to turn to for connection.
What makes teens close up and refuse to talk to their parents?
Parthivi: Sometimes, it's because you think that your parents won't understand or, because your parents have expressed disinterest in non-academic topics. Also, because of technology, you are always in touch with your friends, so you don't have to go to your parents just to have a conversation. Moreover, friends are more accepting at a certain level. So, I think this just progresses to the point where the conversation between parent and teen is reduced to this:
What did you have for lunch?
Why does it bother parents to see their teen wake up late?
Ruchi: I think it's exasperating, because you, as a parent, have woken up and are doing your chores, and when it's a holiday, you expect a little help around the house in terms of maybe just putting things back or organising the dining table, etc. So, seeing them lie around all day is quite exasperating.
Why do you think teens do this?
I think that teens wake up late because they stay up late, watching stuff or playing games.
How can parents deal with this?
You need to communicate your expectations clearly to your teen. You can give them a deadline. Say, they get to sleep till 10 and then they need to get up and do a certain task. Tell them exactly why you want them to do the task. This is better than simply complaining about them sleeping in.
Do teens wake up late on purpose?
Parthivi: With me, it's not on purpose. I cannot, for the life of me, wake up on time! I will always ask for five extra minutes in bed. But, for so many of us it's a real struggle to wake up on time.
What would you say to parents who feel saddened or bewildered by such behaviours from their teen?
Parthivi: Let them be. It will probably only be for a few more years before they are grown up and consequently, more organised and responsible. Talk to them if it bothers you that much and reach a compromise, but this behaviour is probably going to go away with time.
We hope most parents and teens will relate to these issues. But remember, it’s important to always be open to communication. For instance, this mother-daughter duo too have their set of parent-and-teen related problems but, they also share a comfort level that most parents and teens can only aspire to.
About the author:
Written by Jasmine Kaur on 8 November 2018.
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