April 10, 2023

Be friendly with teenage children

From Left clockwise: Dr Diana Maatouk, Carmen Benton and Mohan Kumar Image Credit: Courtesy: Dr Diana Maatouk, Carmen Benton and Mohan Kumar


Emotional and mental independence is happening at relatively younger age these days.

More and more teenagers today are detaching themselves from their families, say psychologists. Independence emotionally and mentally is happening at a quicker pace and at relatively younger ages. The detachment can have dire consequences. Psychologists and parents are commenting on teen-parent relationships after a teenage boy aged 14, leapt to his death after being scolded by his father for smoking cigarettes.

“In the past, most adolescents’ role models were their parents,” says Carmen Benton, Parenting Educator at Life Works Personal Development Training Centre. Nowadays, things have changed. Figures like Mark Zuckerberg and Justin Bieber that defied the system and yet became some of the most successful people of our time, give teenagers a reason to question their parents’ authority. Teenagers no longer trust their parent’s decisions and feel little obligation to comply with what they are told to do. They have more faith in their own opinions and believe that they could achieve a lot by doing things their own way.

Benton says that a lot of parents give in to their children’s commanding personalities. They let them be in charge. This type of parenting is referred to as permissive parenting. “Parents should be authoritative when dealing with their children,” says Benton. “They should honour their personalities and rely in guidance rather than control”. The prevalence of nannies in the Middle East has made permissive parenting very common here. In many cases nannies take the role of parents and resort to permissive parenting because it requires less effort. By the time these children are teenagers, they become less and less tolerant of restrictions of any sort. When these teenagers are confronted with restrictions they become disappointed and possibly depressed.

Dr Diana Maatouk, Clinical Psychologist, believes that social media also plays a major role in teenagers’ change in attitude. She says, “the omnipresence of technology in our everyday life has an important impact on how teenagers perceive the outside world. This accentuation of technology gives rise, particularly in adolescence, to the construction of a narcissistic teenager mostly preoccupied by his self image.”

Internet world

When these adolescents feel more appreciated by the internet world and their network of friends than they are by their parents, they detach themselves from their families. Their social lives become their most significant source of comfort. Any turbulence within them leads to frustration and loneliness. However, experts say that if these changes in behaviour are accompanied by the correct type of parenting there would be no negative consequences.

“Our society is not as totalitarian as it was before, it makes sense for our teenagers to have a say in things”, says Dr Rajeshree Singhania, Neurodevelopmental Paediatricians.

She explains that children are trying to establish their own identities; it’s a biological and psychological need. In the past the culture was more rigid, it put limitations on how much teenagers could express themselves, but today there are less of those restrictions.

“As families become smaller”, Dr Singhania says, “children feel that they are equal to their parents”. A lot of parents see this as a sign of disrespect which could push their children even further away from them. Parental counsellors say that parents need to be their children’s friends.

Rehab Gameel, mother of a teenage boy, believes globalisation has had a huge effect on teenagers’ shift in behaviour; “Youngsters of the Middle East have always been dependent on their parents, this dependence gave them a reason to look up to their parents and trust their authority, however, their exposure to other cultures has changed that in many ways”.

Swati Basu, mother of teenage girl, agrees and says, “I had a great relationship with my mother because she was more of a friend than a parent, and now I am carrying forward what I’ve learnt and do the same with my daughter”. Psychologists and parents emphasise the importance of family quality time. Mohan Kumar, father of two young ladies, says, “Parents need to sit with their youngsters more often; they should listen to them in order to be able to guide them effectively”. Faisal Iqbal Khan, 17, agrees and says, “My relationship with my parents is based on mutual respect and understanding because we discuss everything together”.