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How to tackle generation gap

Often parents live their dream through their children and this is when the conflicting pressure mounts. Expecting the teenager to excel in academics, bring in accolades for extracurricular activities and be the child of their expectations, this in itself is enough pressure.

india Updated: Aug 16, 2012 13:44 IST
teenagers,generation gap,beyond books

I was pushed into writing this article as an aftermath of attending a parenting seminar, where I had the opportunity to interact with parents of teenagers. As was expected, the flow of conversation was mainly in the form of complaints about raising teenagers - "I am becoming a monster these day, handling tantrums," "It's always NO to everything," "I really detest that scorn on the face all the time," "Has respect become obsolete with the current generation?"

Each parent was only adding one more item to the list of grievances. Intrigued, I took the help of uncle Google to see what Internet savvy parents had to opine - the search result wasn't much different. The questions were mostly about how to - handle tantrums, get your teens to clean their rooms, handle rebellious or aggressive behaviour, handle problematic adolescents , defiant tweens, out of control teenagers, make them more responsible etc…

Dealing with parental expectation
"My second son is almost 13 year old and still doesn't do his homework unless scolded into his study" says Ms Mala, a mother of 2 teenage sons Parenting teenagers is quite a balancing act, like walking on ice. Because parents love their children and want only the best for them, they worry excessively about them, and one of the things that parents agonise about most is whether their children are hitting age-appropriate targets for behaviour. Shouldn't a child be toilet trained by the age of 3? Shouldn't a 10-year-old to be able to sit down and do an hour of homework alone?

Often parents live their dream through their children and this is when the conflicting pressure mounts. Expecting the teenager to excel in academics, bring in accolades for extracurricular activities and be the child of their expectations -well behaved, responsible for themselves and sometimes for their younger siblings- this in itself is enough pressure.

Every significant adult around the teen is attempting to mould him/her into some acceptable shape. Even though eldersmay not push their views down their throats, teens are still under a lot of strain because of the plethora of suggestions given and the defeating panic of failure. Frequently, teens arrive at decisions which conflict with their own skills or fields of interest. Amid such hectic activity, the seeds of restlessness, anxiety, fear of failure, unbearable stress is all planted.

Battling with an identity crisis
This is an age of transition and I see teenagers as those struggling to find a place in society. They want to be recognized by their peers and be accepted by their parentsfor what they are.

The media is universally preaching that it is okay to do anything that makes you feel good, just like oxygen all around them. You are cool only if you have 'the happening things.' The shows on television for this age group say all is fair in teenage - be it bullying, premarital sex, aggressive/violent behaviour, breaking rules. What exactly is the teenager learning? Is it their fault if they become confused, defiant or out of control teenagers? How is a teen to choose? Who is to blame?

Digital Citizens vs Digital Immigrants
The younger generation has been referred to as "Digital Citizens" while the older generation could be called "Digital Immigrants." The digital immigrants, concerned for the wellbeing of their children are terrified that kids waste their lives with worthless online activities and gaming. For the Digital Citizens, this activity is normal- what all their friends do as well. Then, when they are confronted by anxious parents, they often feel misunderstood and alienated. The digital divide often results in continuous family conflict, breakdown of communication, power struggles, and disharmony. At times, when parents take away the computer or disconnect the Internet, some youngsters have responded with violence towards the computer, themselves or even their parents.

What parents need is a paradigm shiftanda clearer view of parenting skills.
*We cannot afford to ignore the duties of raising them up well from the time they are little. Televisions, computers and other gadgets that they spend most of the time with, cannot give them the nurturing that only parents can.
*Build lines of communication that are so strong that your children always look at you as allies and not as enemies. Communicate optimistically and always avoid commands and 'I told you so' lines. This will tackle the problem of the out of control teenager.
*Admit to them that you don't always have all the solutions and answers and you too are not always right.
*Be graceful enough to thank and appreciate them at every possible occasion.
*Be willing to listen to their point of view. Give it a good thought before you garbage it.
*An encouraging and supporting attitude goes a long way.

Most importantly, let them know that you care!

(by Dr Jessina Merchant, Parenting Coach)

First Published: Aug 16, 2012 13:31 IST