Papa don’t preach

The generation gap makes parenting a teenager challenging

dad and son in argumentAmong all the problems that middle-aged people face, the biggest one is the turbulent relationship with their teenage children. However, unlike adolescents who, being unable to understand their transition, voice their sufferings, the parents usually suffer in silence.

There are many natural and developmental changes in a teenager’s life that affect the parents, sometimes even more than they affect the teenager. Whether they are good or bad changes depends on the perceptions, past experiences and current life circumstances of the parents.

Here we wish to highlight the problems that come as a part of parenting a teenager. Just being aware of the issues will help prevent the relationship from getting complicated.

Feelings of insecurity

When the child is no longer a baby who can be told what to do and what not to do, many parents face the feeling of loss of control over them. Teenagers’ budding independence may make parents very insecure about not being needed anymore.

Teenage kids tend to compare their parents with their friends’ parents. This comparison is often told to parents in anger when parents are on the weaker side of comparison. This jolts the sense of security that parents always felt with the kid.

Non-working mothers who gave up their careers to raise their kids face the bluntest brunt when they are made to feel small in front of other full-time working mothers.

Feelings of inadequacy

With all the new and modern technological advancements that parents are not very familiar with, there comes a feeling of inadequacy amongst parents when their teenagers start talking fluently about the latest mobile phones and other gadgets.

Sometimes, parents who could never get higher education and their kids now plan to go to colleges and universities too experience similar feelings. Along with the pride, comes a feeling of being downsized by your own kids.

Feelings of loneliness

There can be a general feeling of loneliness even with the teenagers around, as the old bond is felt to be gone. During this time many parents lose their own parents and the whole focus shifts to their kids, who are in their teenage. They fail to connect to the adolescent, who is now more interested in friends, fashion, money and gadgets.

Teenagers may be physically at home, but preoccupied with exams, friends, and socialising. They fail to ‘be there’ for parents, who start feeling the ’empty nest syndrome’ even in the presence of their kids.

Feelings of jealousy

Often, parents tend to feel extremely jealous of the kid’s friend who ‘means the whole world’ to him/her. They cannot bear being dethroned by someone else in their kid’s life.

Feelings of acute fears and general anxieties

When kids are in their teens, it’s the time for nightmares at nights and panic attacks during daytime for most parents. A parent’s biggest fear is finding out someday that the child is into drugs, alcohol, cigarettes and bad company or has been sexually harassed by someone.

Their experiences with the outside world keep them on their toes making them almost paranoid and overprotective. This is also the time when parents are worried about kids’ future studies and the huge sums of money they might need to cough up for kids’ admission into desired colleges.

Feelings of rejection

Some parents start feeling rejected by their teenage children when the kids plan activities or events with their friends that doesn’t include the parents. They take children’s engagements personally and feel dismissed. They generally react by withdrawing into a shell of their own.

Feelings of awkwardness

Their ‘babies’ suddenly grow up and start talking about acne, girls, boys, dumping, dating, drugs, alcohol. They find it difficult to talk to their ‘babies’ about menstrual cycles, brassieres, shaving or masturbation. The changed focus from cartoon network to M-TV can be very difficult to digest. As a result, awkwardness often creeps in the relationship affecting communication.

Feelings of split

Working parents are generally at the peak of their own careers when their kids enter puberty. The demands of their now high-profile jobs may not leave enough room for understanding the teenagers’ sea of problems. This increases the distance between the two generations who have their own sets of problems and issues.

Just as adolescence is alien to children, parenting a teenager is alien to parents. Before taking steps to improve the parent-adolescent relationship, it is imperative to know the root cause of the problem they are facing. Almost all the problems parents face during this phase of their lives come under the umbrella of the feelings discussed above.

However, not all feelings are equally dominant in one parent—a couple of feelings will be stronger than the others and these shape the perception and behavior of the parents towards their teenage child. Understanding the unconscious roots of the feelings will help overcome the negative emotion better.

Bond aid

Tips for parents of young adults for a tension-free relationship.

Together time

  • Slot special time for each other and follow the schedule as a family rule.
  • Involve your teenager in household chores with you. Working parents should take special efforts to spend their free time with their adolescents. Teenage children shouldn’t be left alone for long durations. Their hyperactive fantasies transport them to a different world and the connection between them and their parents goes kaput.


  • Change roles. Be a friend to your child and understand her world as a friend without making any judgment. Being a friendly parent doesn’t mean allowing disrespect or a bad habit. Friendliness should include respect for the teenager’s views, likes and ideas. When they are wrong, tell them gently, but firmly.
  • Keep emotional channels open. Shower love and affection and encourage them to shower the same on you. Create an environment of interdependence. When teenagers are expressed how much they are needed, loved and cherished, they bond well. Instead of using friends as an escape-route from home, they want to create a balance between their relationship with parents and their friends. This prevents their drifting apart.
  • Befriend your teenager’s friends and the friends’ parents, but keep your distance. It’s important to maintain the thin line between keeping an eye and invading personal space. Too much of strictness and voyeurism will force the kid to cook up false stories to hide things from you.
  • Keep yourself updated on latest technology, ideas, lingo, and general trends of teenagers, to be better able to connect to their ways. Be a modern parent and live in ‘these days’. This will save you from comparing ‘those days’ with ‘these days’. Let the generation gap be there due to biological difference in age. Don’t deliberately create a generation gap by making the teenagers feel the difference between that era and this era.
  • Let control not become an issue in the family. Accepting your fault when you have been wrong or unfair strengthens the bond. When talks and situations get dense and the difference of opinion mounts, use your sense of humor and creativity to ease the tension.
  • Don’t deliberately create a gender divide. Fathers should also actively try to understand teenage girls’ emotions and hormones. The same goes for mothers. The talks shouldn’t be restricted to a whisper between daughter and mother or father and son. This only increases the awkwardness in the family.

Proper guidance, deep bonds and mutual respect—put them together and it’s a perfect formula for healthy and happy teenage, both for the kid and for the parents!

Aanchal Agrawal
Aanchal Agrawal is a mother, a psychotherapist, and a special educator. She is a gold medallist in psychology from Benaras Hindu University. She is interested in removing taboos regarding mental illness and aims to spread awareness about child development.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here