Do you remember the incident when your father tried to dictate your fashion sense, and you rolled your eyes behind his back? Or, when it came to relationships, you had to tell your mother that she was too old-fashioned to understand? As a parent of a teen, are you also involved in such exchanges with your child, leaving you a with a feeling of déjà vu?
The boot is on the other foot now and you’re probably experiencing the so-called ‘generation gap’, which is targeting the bond you share with your teen.
You’re probably aware of the meaning of generation X, Y and Z. Each of these generations, like many before them, was born during different time periods, spanning roughly thirty years each. All these three generations have their own style of rearing, psychology, protocol for conduct, existence, expression of emotions, ideas about money, and so on. Very often, it is the differences between generations that give rise to conflicts. However, these conflicts can be reduced if two generations agree to abide by a rational agreement. So, let’s look at ways to close the divide called the ‘generation gap’.
1. Ensure that communication is a two-way street
Jaya Purshothaman, a housewife in Chennai, says that dinner time in her house is sacred. It is mandatory for all the six family members to eat together every night, while engaging in a conversation. As a result, she, her two teenaged girls, seven-year-old son, fifty-five-year-old husband, seventy-two-year-old mother know exactly what is going on with each member of the family. During such conversations, it is mandatory to not break rules of politeness, even when the topic of discussion involves conflicting ideas.
When conversations are respectful, teens feel respected and accepted by members of the older generation, lessening the gap between the two generations. Open lines of communication is the best tool to use in multigenerational families. Teach elders and teens to communicate freely, without feeling offended. No member of the household must be allowed to feel isolated by being kept out of conversations.
2. Have an open mind
An open mind is never closed to different points of view. Keeping an open mind during interactions enables everyone to see things through the other’s eyes. Such an attitude provides an invaluable insight that can bring about resolution of conflicts. It is important for you to understand that, just because your child is a teen, it doesn’t mean that she cannot have preferences and interests independent of yours.
Mathew Abraham, who moonlights as a psychological counselor in Kolkata, has established the moderator rule in his four-member household. Whenever there is a discussion, a member of the family who is least associated with the matter at hand acts as a moderator, ensuring that everyone is receptive to what the other has to say.
3. Embrace the power of acceptance
Now that your mind is open to your teen’s views, stop resisting change. This will spontaneously usher in a mindset of sharing between you and your teen. Accepting your teen, who is a member of the next generation, as he is won’t be easy, but it is worth the effort to maintain the harmony of your relationship. Taking time to understand your teen’s perspective and accepting his decisions can instill in him a great deal of self-confidence.
4. Care to listen
To listen means to receive, focus and understand. While growing up, at some point or the other, we have all been at the receiving end of our parents’ lectures about perfection. But it’s time to do away with that approach and replace it with one where you try to understand what your teen desires to convey. Remember, what she has to say is an extension of herself which she wants you to understand; so, listening to her should be your first priority. Of course, the final say is still yours, but do it graciously.
Let this be the golden rule under your roof: ‘Never interrupt while the other is speaking’. This will trigger a very rewarding flow of mutual understanding in your home. Allow your teen to speak without disruption. The freedom to emote and reveal his mind will address most of his concerns. It will also assure him that he is an important member of the family.
5. Spend time together
This will take your relationship in the right direction. Have a day out with your teen at least once a month. This will strengthen the bonds that exist between the two of you. Fix a day when you would do things that she wants you to do. Give in to her likes and dislikes when both of you go shopping. After watching a movie, allow her to voice her views. Talk about her friends and get to know them better through your conversations with her.
Sachin Bhandari of Mumbai is the single-dad of his only child, a teenage girl. His job requires him to travel a lot; therefore, he gets very little time to spend with his daughter. Sachin beams when he says that scheduling a weekend away with his princess once a month has become a panacea to all the problems they used to have in the past.
6. Be your child’s confidant
This will give him confidence. Seema Prabhu, a telemarketer in Trivandrum, says that both she and her 17-year-old son feel deeply connected every time she tells him that she loves him no matter what. Seema’s son is a recovering alcoholic and she has been his confidant in his struggle to recover.
Nothing could be more precious to your teen than having you as his trustworthy confidant. He should know that no matter what he said or felt or did, his relationship with you is secure.
Bridging the generation gap can be a long and arduous mission. If you boil it down to its essentials, generation gap does not arise because of difference in age, but owing to clashes caused by egos and wilfulness. Set these aside to develop the right perspective and you will enjoy a healthy relationship with your teen.
Hannah S Mathew is a freelance teacher, trainer and certified diagnostic counsellor.