BUILDING A BRIDGE TO REACH YOUR TEENAGER
A few years back,when I first saw my adolescent son’s profile on Facebook for the first time, it gave me quite a turn. Though I don’t know what upset me more… the fact that my innocent babe –in- the- woods was now on a worldwide networking site ; or the fact that among all this ,he had not thought of including me in his list of friends. Well, I was suddenly reminded of that dreaded term--- Generation gap. Was it happening to me? He was only 13! And I fancied myself to be a modern, understanding mom yet I was not computer savvy and not active on social networking sites. It made me sit up and take notice of where I had missed a few steps to being a hands-on mom. I was definitely not going to let my ignorance drive me away from my kids so I fell headlong on the pursuit of special skills I might need to acquire to help in harmonious coexistence with my teen-aged kids
So for all of you, who have teenagers at home, I want to say, ‘Please open your eyes to their expanding world, even though we might believe that the world we came from was perfect.’ Every generation believes that the values they grew up with were the ultimate and endless parallels are drawn between “in our time “and ‘nowadays.’ But we don’t want to produce a generation of half - hearted clones of ourselves. Life is not a competition between ‘our’ ways and ‘their’ ways. That they are individuals in their own right and not merely an extension of our personalities is a lesson that is best learnt at the earliest.
Young people today are dealing with varied situations arising out of increasing academic and peer group pressures. Also their mode of recreation, their spending power and their level of awareness of their immediate environment is way beyond our imagination. So if we do not wish to lose all points of connection with them, we simply have to step into and explore the world they live in.
Youngsters today have their opinions on anything and everything. So it would be worthwhile to stop and think before vetoing their views. If we close our minds to anything new that they want to share with us we shut off all channels of further communication.
I was surprised when at a wedding we attended recently my adolescent daughter was closely watching some quite overdressed ladies and would whisper in my ear.’ Did you see that dress…? Gosh, I need goggles! Don’t miss those glitzy sandals eew! “Mom just see that jazzy golden stuff she‘s put in her hair “She did seem to have a fairly decent sense of fashion and was quite sure of what goes with what and what is completely ‘not done’. Even though I felt she was being rude, a small selfish part of me was flattered that she thought it worthwhile to share her ‘expertise’ with me! So far I had not appeared too outdated to her!!!
So, now I have made up my mind to see their world with their eyes in order to bridge the gap that is bound to come up if I stubbornly refuse to evolve, and learn. So now I am sincerely learning to be computer savvy, (This is not to keep track of my children’s interactions online) to be on the same platform while talking to them. I let my son teach me about new apps and gadgets so I can be a part of whatever he enjoys doing. I have downloaded the music they listen to.( Being a hard core fan of ABBA,Bee gees, and the Carpenters I used to dismiss these youngsters’ music as just so much noise) but after listening to some of the tracks a few times , I have started liking it. Some of it is quite good actually. So now my daughter and I are trying to learn the lyrics and sing together!! It’s a great feeling.
I do realize that they like very different kind of books and clothes but I am trying to see if I can find some via media, some common ground, something of their choice that I can appreciate and it is not so difficult. I often consult my daughter before buying shoes or bags or accessories as I realized she actually has quite a good taste. I have started looking carefully at the latest trends doing the rounds at posh parties. And I do spend time flipping through fashion magazines just to update myself. I could never make her like what I like and shopping together used to be a nightmare but now I try to see her versions and try to merge my views with some of her suggestions and now we enjoy shopping together.
Meanwhile my son is trying to make me independent while working on the computer. The fact that he can teach me gives him quite a kick. All my life I have hated dealing with complicated machinery but I know that excites him so now I try to understand the working of various gadgets from him to educate myself. In fact I actually visited an Auto Exhibition because cars are his passion and it does give us something to discuss together. I am trying to follow the sports my kids enjoy and watch the movies they like so we have something to share opinions about. It is not so difficult really and it is the only way we can build a bridge across the gaping chasm in between the generations
Actually this whole exercise has been quite fulfilling because it makes me feel younger, more in tune with today. It can be quite amusing, familiarizing us with their lingo--- it sounds remotely like English but the words have very different meanings!
The idea is not to become their friends---- they have plenty of those anyway. The aim is more to be aware of the world our children are moving in so that if we find something not quite right at least we would know and figure out how we can help but if we stoically refuse to open up they will simply shut us out. We will have to accept that they are different than what we expect them to be but being different need not be always objectionable.
When we share their interests we open a door for non -judgmental communication, and communication, more specifically, conversation is the most essential tool we have of connecting with them. When we show our readiness to see and appreciate their world they will open up to us. Our preconceived notions and the criticism that is bound to follow is the most challenging hurdle in this process of reaching out. Let them feel your openness. We only want what’s best for them but we cannot help them if they alienate themselves from us.