The moment we become parents, we tend to forget that we too had been teenagers for a good seven years of our lives. And even if we do not take into account exact number of years, we all have spent a reasonable amount of time passing through our adolescence. We forget how we had found our own individuality, personality, about when we had started building dreams for ourselves, however far-fetched or utopic it may seem now, but they had all seemed real then, and very severely real. Those were our beliefs and we had complete faith in them as individuals. It was the time when we had started to look at our lives as separate from our parents, we had started discovering new identities, opinions, likes and dislikes, and we were developing our very own ideologies and belief systems. We had developed our new tastes in music, art, literature; we had been initiated into a new world of possibilities in terms of education, about what we might want to do in life, what it means to pursue something, what passion is all about- overall, it was a time when we had found our separate identities, as living individuals on this planet.
Every individual goes through their own cycle of discovering herself or himself. For some, it comes very easy, some are better equipped to face new challenges in their teenage years, some are better able to understand themselves and thereby express themselves. Not everybody becomes a rebel, not everybody thinks of her/himself as a separate entity with distinctive thought processes, not everybody finds comfort beyond their parents, or just within themselves. But it is necessary to remember that some do. Exactly like some of us had, when we had been of their age. It is important that we do not forget that those years are very crucial in everybody’s life, as it is the first time when a person develops her/his own individuality. This is the second stage of building years in someone’s life after the first child stage when the parents would build you up. In this second stage, young adolescents want to take control over their own lives as they begin to realize the difference between friends and parents, between two generations, between separate life-worlds. It is the beginning of a time when they might want to keep things from you, when they feel that our parents will not understand, when they feel more comfortable sharing things with their friends or cousins, than their parents. They start giving a lot of concern to the ‘age-gap’.
It is true that the gap is there and it will most naturally be there, but it is necessary for parents like you to cross over to the other side, remember how you yourself used to be when you were exactly of that age, or how your sister or brother used to be. It is for you to remember that you would tell yourself as a teenager that you would never be such commanding, non-understanding parents when you would grow up to be a parent yourself, how you would tell yourself that you would be much nicer, much more understanding, friendlier and more supportive than your own parents at who you were probably fuming at that point. That time has come for you when you can actually be that parent with who the children will be most comfortable, open, free and able to express themselves as much as they want. It is for you to assure them that you will not betray them suddenly by taking the role of a parent and start controlling them; that you would not ‘discuss’ about it with other elders, that you would respect your child’s opinions or ideas, thoughts and beliefs, dreams and passions. You would give your child that space to share with you as s/he would share with a friend of the same age. It is for you to bridge the gap of those many years and take over the role of a confidante who your child can come to any time without any hesitation, fear or anxiety.
Many parents think that they know what is right and wrong for their children. They think that as parents it is their duty to lead them on the right track and in the process they end up imposing their own ideas upon their children. In such cases disconnects and conflicts are bound to happen as for the children it is that time when they realize the concept of freedom, liberty, opinion, and so on, and the last thing that they want is their parents to tell them what to do and what not to do. However, as parents it is your responsibility to see to it that the children do not lose control over themselves, are not harmed, but in a way that ensures maximum comfort, love and warmth. It is only through these that a teenager would have faith in you, in your opinions, and will learn to understand the experience that you may have had as a teenager. The best way is to open yourself up to your adolescent as who you were at that age, and then make the best of it. S/he will realize that you were not born a parent, that you have also been there and done that. Give that space to them to express their darkest secrets and respect those secrets as a friend would do. Give way to friendly model of parenting than the age-old authoritative model. It will work wonders!