A strained relationship between a parent and a child is a very common scenario. The ‘rebellious teenage years‘ can veer out of control resulting in a rift between mother and daughter, father and son, etc. When the child or teenager has gotten into drug or alcohol abuse, the problem can get progressively worse until a brick wall has effectively been built between you and your child.
The Generation Gap
Another strong influence is the generational gap.
The children who grew up during the Great Depression and went on to fight World War II or support the war on the home front became known as The Greatest Generation. Their children became the Baby Boomers, the hippies and the flower children of the 1960‘s. There was a perceivably wide gap between the two generations. One had endured unimaginable hardship, while the next had come to question authority on a broad scale, including protesting the Vietnam War. Even many who fought in that war came to question its validity. They also experienced the heavy influx of drugs into the society.
Many of the Boomers wound up in the suburbs and gave birth to Generation X which became known for their own distinct brand of disdain for authority. Many members of so-called Generation X are now running the show in business and the arts. They are taking over much of the old guard‘s duties.
While all these terms and descriptions are wildly arbitrary and were all coined by the media, they do serve to illustrate that generations have a tendency to fall short of fully understanding one another. The parents are clueless about the kids and the kids are likewise baffled by their parents. Our newest generation has become known as the Millennials (or Generation Y). They could aptly be described as the internet or digital generation, the kids who are glued to their phones and speak in what to some parents sounds like a foreign language. Despite the alien element, we had better understand these kids because they will be the ones taking care of us in the future.
How to Mend the Broken Bonds
Despite the differences, there are effective ways to restore broken bonds within a family. Despite the obvious disparities, each generation is seeking pretty much the same things: happiness, security, prosperity, survival!
- The Genuine Complaint
Your kid may have a genuine gripe. Maybe you weren‘t home enough. You may have been working two or three job and didn‘t pay adequate attention to your child growing up. You probably had very good reasons for working so hard. It may have been the right thing to do, but from the viewpoint of a child it could have looked very different. Simply acknowledging that you should spend more time together could be enough to start restoring your bonds, as long as you stay true to your word. If you make an appointment, keep it. Nothing upsets a child quite like a parent breaking their word.
- Right & Wrong
Another important tool that will help you bridge the gap is to understand that a child or anyone for that matter is making an effort to be ‘right.‘ Two people in an argument who are determined to be right will do everything in their power to ensure their opponent remains wrong. The more each party is determined the more unresolvable the argument becomes. It‘s like two bulls in a china shop or an unmovable object vs. an irresistible force.
The subtle art then is to allow the other person to remain right while you help guide them in a more positive direction and restore positive relations. It‘s a subtle art and may take some practice. This is not to say you must compromise your standards. What you are doing is using positivity for the good of all concerned.
- The Value of Communication
Communication is the fundamental building block in the bridge between individuals and between generations. Two people talking and working through difficulties is a potent and powerful tactic against the walls and differences that divide us. The enemy of communication is one or more party‘s inability or unwillingness to communicate. Kids can storm off and lock themselves in their room. They can hop on their skateboard and disappear into the night. Grown-up ‘kids‘ can leave the country and only call if they need money. You just have to keep working at it. Keep communicating. Keep chipping away at the wall brick by brick. Little pieces will fall away. Gradually the whole thing may come crashing down. Communicate!
- Be a Friend
When speaking with your children, the best position to take is one of a friend. If you‘re up on your soapbox telling them what to think and what to believe, you‘re not likely to get through. Chances are they won‘t be interested or they‘ll give you a perfunctory nod and wander away. Look at how you‘d like to be spoken to. Would you rather someone talk down to you or grant you some dignity and respect. That‘s probably how your kids would like to be spoken to as well.
Parents tend to treat their kids how they were treated. This is not always the case but often it is. If your mother or father took an authoritarian stance then you might attempt the same with varying degrees of success. Is it necessary to put your foot down? Certainly. But there is also a balance or rapport you can reach with your kids one of mutual honor and respect. No one is going to be perfect at this but you can work on it. You can cultivate and improve upon it step by step.
- Common Ground
Another avenue you can take in your efforts to improve relations with your kids is to find common ground. Find out what they are interested in. Is there anything about that that interests you as well? Maybe there is and maybe there isn‘t but you are bound to find some common ground. Explore those things. Maybe it‘s sports, clothes, music, the arts, video games could be anything. You can work out things to do or places to go with your child that you‘ll both enjoy. You can find out what their goals and aspirations are and help them with that. If they have no aspirations you can expose them to different fields and see what sparks their interest. They may thank you for it later.
Your Overall Approach
You‘ll have to tailor your approach to your children and your individual situation. Remember that a child or teenager is going through the formative years of their lives. Whether they care to admit it, you as a parent are very influential on their current and future existence. Through mutual respect and honesty, you can help your child realize their full potential. Good luck!