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How to Bridge the Gap Between a Parent and a Teenage Child Through Positive Communication

A Philippine-based mental health advocate - a reader and writer that focuses on advocacy, self-help, and wellness.


Since the start of the stay-at-home orders, I have been aware of personal testimonies from close friends and acquaintances from the internet that post (and complain) about how it made it more difficult to comply with staying at home when they live with their parents, most of which are in the millennial generation. Do not take this in the wrong note, though, they are not ungrateful or anything. Personally, I have felt the sentiments. That got me thinking and asking why.

As the time advances, certain things are constantly changing that created a gap between the generations. Generation gap is the noticeable divide between the younger people and their parents and grandparents. This gap results to difference in views regarding aspects in life - politics, customs, music and arts, values, education, technology, health and other facets.

Difference in outlook or mindset and the way we do things will definitely get us on each others' nerves. Speaking from experience, my mom and I would often fight about how they used to do things "back in the day" as opposed to what we know and do now.

Again, there's nothing wrong with following what the customs are but since millennials are proven to be more forward-thinking, they are prone to follow what they see and know for themselves through searching the web instead of believing what the elders say. It's not that they (we) don't want to listen entirely, it's just that professional opinion, research data, basis and tangible evidence are more convincing than something that a grandmother of someone else's grandmother said.

So how do we bridge in the gap? Positive communication is one the effective ways that we could do. Since everyone is obliged to stay at home, take this time to learn things from each other. Being stuck with your family during this quarantine period will definitely help understand each other - from one generation to another.

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Here are some of the tips that the parents and the teenage sons and daughters can do to practice positive communication:

  • Active listening. Learning through listening takes both ways. It is common for parents to talk but how often do they listen? Engage in an active communication with your family. Teens, however, are more likely to open up if they are not pressured to share the information or if they do not feel like they are being cornered into talking. Again, it takes both ways. Find a subject that the parent and the teen can talk about at ease. You can start small by perhaps talking about something casual like music taste or movies, how it evolved through time, and be genuinely interested. That way, you can share experiences and current likes.
  • Empathize and validate each other's feelings. A little issue for you might be big for someone else's. Since the generations are different from each other, what one went through is not the same as the others. Don't take it upon yourselves to instill the idea that what you did is something the other one can do in almost the same situation. Practice empathy - understand and share the feelings of each other as we all have different levels of sensitivity.
  • Set boundaries on things that you can and cannot talk about. I feel like some parents would often take it upon themselves to know every little thing, the nook and crannies of their child's life. This, however, is not very much applicable anymore if the child is already a teen or in early adulthood. Things like what happens in relationships, work stuff, and other big life decisions should only be discussed if the child opened up about it first. If not, it would feel like the parents are prying with their unsolicited advice. On the other hand, the child's curiosity can sometimes get the best of him or her so it should be lessen, too. Again, be open about the things that you really want to talk about and do not force each other to engage in conversations that they are not comfortable with.
  • Learn how to control your emotions. Most of the time, proper communication cannot be achieved if the temper flares. Do not let your emotions get the best of you. Shouting and temper tantrums would not get you anywhere - this goes both ways. Parents and children should know how to compromise. Learn what words to best use in conversations and be patient if the other party is having a hard time to understand. Do not impose your ideas to each other because it will just make the situation agitating. It is perfectly okay to back down on any arguments. Take a breath and talk once everything is light and breezy. There is nothing wrong with admitting you made a mistake especially when presented facts for this is one way for everyone to learn.
  • Establish and show trust. This is the most important thing, at least for me, when it comes to communication and relationships. Parents and their children should be able to trust each other with whatever they want to talk about without the feeling of being judged and dismissed. Most teenagers would act all cool with their "I don't care" attitude but deep inside, they still want their parents' approval to boost their confidence and self-esteem. With that being said, parents should trust their child's decisions and judgments, as well as giving praise and credit when it is due. The children, consequently, have to trust that their parents only want everything that is best for their well-being.

I am not in any way the expert in all of this because I also have lapses in having a positive communication and relationship with my parents. It has been hard especially being isolated in such small space you call home. Not that I am complaining, I love how I get to be with my family during this trying time, but what makes it hard, in my opinion, is that fact that you are imprisoned to deal with what everyday could bring.

With that in mind, genuinely trying to understand each other is the best way to get through anything. After all, we are not only stuck with them because of this COVID-19 pandemic, we will be with them throughout this lifetime.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 Eymi Teves

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