Your 13 is not My 13….

It’s about AGE actually. I’m sure we’ve heard more than enough of such remark, referring to a teenager’s 13 years of age today is not the same as his/her parents’ 13 years of age, decades back. The landscape of our lives has been constantly changing, from the days of boxed TV to today’s LED HD TV, from brick-like handphone to light and slim smartphones, from a mini computer to iPad2, from few hours black and white TV programmes with two channels then to colourful 24 hours multiple channels today, from writing diaries to writing blogs, etc.

A scene from our teenagers’ lives today : Everyone older would tell you that he/she had gone through your growing pains before. Before you retort that their younger days were different from yours, read on. In my opinion, the emotional journey has always been the same. Let me demonstrate a few examples : When your BFF said something carelessly, you’ll feel hurt and upset, isn’t it? When you like another person, you feel happy talking endlessly with him/her. There are times when you feel that your elder siblings are out to bully you and your younger ones are pests, always get you into trouble with parents, don’t you? You might also think that you are weird, and have a weird family. You are moody but don’t quite know why. You secretly wish to be popular in class or school. If you are popular, you wish people would just get off your back and leave you alone. Mostly, you complain that your parents can’t understand you at all.

Would you believe that I had gone through most of that when I was at that age? I must admit that my 13 was not as complicated as yours today. Peer pressure wasn’t so bad then. We didn’t have extra distractions like cellphone, Facebook, YouTube, internet, Worldwide 24-hour TV shows. Our after-school activities were much lesser as compared to today; you have a string of tutorials, skill development activities, loads of homework, leaving less time for outdoor games and sports with friends and family members. We spent more time outdoor than indoor then, which is a reverse today. We used to play police and thieves, “congkak” made of wood or we dug up holes on the ground to play the game, whilst the boys would play with marbles, tops, “lastik”, hand-made kites, lanterns made out of condensed milk tin or milo tin, fishing with self-made rods by the river, climbing trees, etc. Some of these may sound foreign to you. Today’s 13 year olds play with their PSP, iPad, iPhone, on-line games, spending lots of time on Facebook, YouTube, tumblr.

Deep down in our hearts, we are the same 13. What makes us different is just the time zone and the environment we are exposed to. We need to recognise such differences before we can move forward to having more open and honest discussions with each other. Teenagers may treat your parents as your friends when it comes to sharing your emotional issues. You know very well that your parents won’t laugh or judge you. Nor do you need to speak or act to impress them. You are after all, their beloved child and they only wish for the best to you.

Seek to understand then be understood (7 Habits – Stephen Covey). Try to see things from your parents’ perspective too. Take for instance, if your parents do not allow you to go to the mall, they have their reasons. Find out why and try to understand their fear. I’m sure most issues blew up because of lacked understanding. People get mad, upset and hurt mostly because they do not understand the actual situation. Many misunderstandings can be avoided when we can explain well and clearly to the next person.

As for parents, do recognise also, time has changed and technically, today’s 13 has its own challenges and degree of complications, which may be foreign to some parents. Do listen with an open mind and stay relevant, to encourage your teenagers to talk more often with you. If you provide a good platform for them to voice their thoughts, there is no other reason for them to turn to someone else or to feel lonely and sad in this world.

Having said that, shouldn’t we start the ball rolling by respecting each other’s points of view? I’m sure we can find ways and means to bridge those differences. When the situation calls for parents to be teenagers’ friends, be their buddies. Conversely, when a situation calls for a parent to be a parent, do it. Parents need not go all out, trying hard to be your teenagers’ buddies. Let me elaborate : when our teenagers need an emphatic ear, listen patiently and from your heart, feel behind those words. When they seek guidance or advice, be their life coach (more on “life coach” in my past post).

Another important point for parents : Always be there for your teenagers when they need you. Know where they are and who they are with. Get to know their friends too. Trust me, it’s worth every single second spent with them. For my dear teenagers, please don’t assume that your parents are always busy, when they appear to be busy. Ask to speak with them and tell how important it is to you to be heard. Don’t be quick to dismiss when you see your parents are engrossed in something. If it is very important, you may interrupt. If not, you can ask for the right time and come back to talk about it.

Remember, it takes two to make your lives simpler and happier. Work on it. Talk about it, K? Always remember you don’t have to be lonely, if you choose not to.

~ Alice N.

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