I never felt that I had to face the issue of the "generation gap" with my parents because I've always been a talkative child since young. Most parents have a hard time trying to get their teens to talk to them about their day and feelings; my parents—particularly my mom—has trouble trying to get me to stop talking. Still, the status quo remains that the generation gap is something that often only grows wider during the teenage years.
Truthfully, I don't think that the generation gap is very hard to mend. It's all about open communication and a willingness to reach out—from both ends. Particularly for you teenagers out there, consider my thoughts (below) and to open up a little to your parents.
What do you think is the underlying issue of the generation gap?
The piece below was originally published on the jakartapost.com here
As in every time period, there exists a separation between parents and children known as the generation gap.
Understandably, such disparity is inevitable: advancing technology, shifting views on pop culture and increased globalization all collectively widen the past and the present between parents and their teens. Improvements always make the traditional version of anything look outdated. Penning letters appears lame compared to typing emails, cultural traditions appear troublesome compared to the cooler pop culture trends, parents’ advice appear invalid compared to what friends and celebrities say.
Is there a way to close the rift? Probably not. But can we at least narrow the gap?
To do so, we need to take a look at the root cause of the generation gap. For the 21st century teenager today, our biggest underlying problem is our inability to effectively communicate our thoughts.
There have been many articles and discussions for parents on Teenagers 101: A parent’s guide to basic teenagers. But what about a guide for teenagers to help understand their parents? After all, a large majority of parents want the best for their children, but from the receiving end, these good intentions are sometimes taken as troublesome requests and limitations.
Fundamentally, teens need to change the mind-set that parents don’t understand situations that they are going through. Parents were teenagers once too. It’s unfair for you to give your dad the cold shoulder when he offers to drop you off at a dinner engagement or snap at your mom when she asks about your social life.
Before clamming up or jumping to conclusions, try opening up and engaging in some small talk, if you haven’t already had an open conversation with them. They don’t get your situation because you haven't told them the complete story and they need the complete story to be able to give you suitable advice. Sure, times have changed and your problems may differ to those of your parents’, but that doesn’t automatically discredit their wisdom.
Imagine life as a single-file bridge. Your parents have already walked a stretch of the way, but they cannot turn around to guide you side-by-side. Say there’s a hole in the bridge along the way. You’re about to fall into it, so your parents warn you, telling you to steer clear. But you, the young vibrant soul, want to discover your surroundings by yourself, and thus want to deal with the hole on your own terms. And perhaps you will pull through it, maybe even unscathed, but there’s only so many issues that you can resolve on your own and there will come a time where you need help and you'll need to look for that help.
Perhaps the reason we turn to social media instead of face-to-face communication is because social media offers an illusion of a “private” sharing space, since private chat screens are supposedly, well, private. But as every high school movie has taught us, nothing shared on social media — be it on Facebook messenger or on Skype calls — is never really confidential. So when we turn to our friends on social media instead of finding time to confide in our parents (or any adult figure), oftentimes we aren’t presented with holistic insight on our problems. Admittedly, age does not equate to maturity, but by default, the older someone is, the more experiences they’ve live through.
Why not recreate a “safe bubble” in real life?
Long journeys are a pretty good starting point, especially for those who are starting to reconnect with their parents. Try a car or plane ride. They work because these spaces form a closed space for you and your parents in a less formal setting, in a fresh environment as opposed to the daunting “we need to talk” bedroom or dining-room setting. In a car, it’s literally a metal box of privateness. You don’t have to feel self-consciousness about people watching you. A plane, on the other hand, is great because it’s a “public” place. But unlike other public places (like malls and restaurants), other people mind their own business and the hum of the airplane engine drowns out neighboring conversations. The best part? Your parents can’t flip out on you (at least, when you’re on a plane; in a car, they could drop you on the side of the road). And they also cannot avoid a talk. At home, on the other hand, they could break the mood by walking out of the room.
Now that we have a safety bubble, how to break the ice?
There’s two ways to go about it: the gentle, probing method, or the straight-up, direct method. For those who want to slowly set up the context and then ease into the more serious stuff, start with something general, maybe even ask your parents about the kinds of problems they encountered during their teen years. Then once you’ve established the mood, you can ease into the more serious stuff. On the other hand, maybe cutting the unnecessary perambulatory stuff and going straight into “OK there’s this problem and I kind of need advice but I need you to not get mad because I’m already flipping out myself” could prove a better route. Sometimes honesty can manifest through lighthearted humor: “Recently, I found this new thing called ‘being open to my parents’, and I’ve decided to give it a try.”
Of course, it shouldn’t take a crisis for you to start talking to your parents. Relationships are an investment. You don’t receive bank interest on your savings immediately; it accumulates. Building a bridge to narrow the gap doesn’t happen overnight; it’s a process.
You'll only have one set of parents. Sometimes they get a little too fussy, a little too nosey and a little too uptight, but they’re still your parents. Treat them with loving care, or else you’ll only realize their value once you see their empty chair.