Closing the Family Gap

By Sandra Yim

As toddlers, we whine and pine for the attention of our dear parents but as we reach our adolescent years, this essential need that we once craved so desperately starts to fade into aloofness.

Sadly, as we grow older and start making more sense of the world, we think that we’ve seen all there is to see. We treat our parent’s constant nagging with little regard and consume ourselves with the thought that they have no idea what we’re going through. Our parents have decades of life experiences up their sleeves and yet we always assume they were never once in our shoes. The real question here is: “Have we put ourselves in their shoes?”

These days, parents seem to find it increasingly hard to connect with their adolescents. According to The Singapore Children’s Society Youth Services, more parents are applying for assistance in managing their children aged 16 and below with behavioural problems. In just the first three months of 2015 alone, 113 complaints were screened by The Singapore Children’s Society Youth Service Centre as compared to 373 complaints in the whole of 2014.

Having an age gap between the two generations is one thing but it takes two hands to clap. With social media becoming an integral part of daily life for most youths, it is hard for parents to pull their kids out of the digital world and have a nice meal together without having their phones glued to their faces. On the other hand, their parents are buried knee-deep with their own troubles at work that at the end of the day, they don’t notice whether or not their child seems troubled.

To make matters worse, it is difficult to find interesting common topics to talk about and therefore the relationship between youths and their parents remain distant and stagnant.

Despite their cold exterior towards their parents, youths value and yearn for a close relationship with them.. According to a survey conducted by students from Singapore Polytechnic this year, attaining financial stability, strong family relationships and work-life balance are the top three aspirations of youths in Singapore. With that being said, the quality of the relationship between youths and their parents has a direct impact on the development of youths. Having strained family ties and sour relationships with their parents can have dire consequences in the lives of youths and vice versa.

The latest figures from the Samaritans of Singapore (SOS) showed that youth suicide contributed to about 25 per cent of the total number of suicides in 2013. Furthermore, over half of the suicidal youths who emailed SOS were distressed by family relationships. SOS also revealed that when distressed teens called their hotline, what seemed to be troubling them the most was also their family relationship issues, which then contributed to their suicidal thoughts.

On the other end of the spectrum, the positive effects from establishing a close relationship with their parents are equally as impactful. By simply asking a child how their day was and making the conscious effort to be involved with their lives can make a world of difference.

According to a study done by the National Technological University, allowing these youths to grow up in a nurturing environment where they are heard and valued by their parents leads to greater self-confidence and morale, higher academic scores and greater interpersonal skills.

At the end of the day, it all boils down to both parties being willing to reach out to one another. Growing up isn’t something we can control but the kind of relationship we have with our parents is entirely up to us. There’s no denying that no matter what stages of life we’re going through, we are still going to need our parents. Not to be a wet blanket, but our parents are not going to be around forever, thus we should treasure our time with them as much as we can, while we still can.

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