Connect, then Expect: Parent and Teen Relationships
This project is a requirement of the GOA Abnormal Psychology Course. Using the process of design thinking, a challenge in the world of mental health was identified, interviews and research were undertaken, and a solution prototype was developed. Below you will find information about the identified area of concern and my proposed solution. Please feel free to provide feedback on this prototype, using questions such as “How might we…”, “What if….?”, “I wonder….”, “I like…”, and “I wish.” Keep the comments positive, please. For more information on the process of Design Thinking, click here.
Hello! My name is Saanya, and I’m in 10th grade at The Westminster Schools in Atlanta, Georgia. Now that I am completing my second year of high school and nearing the dreaded junior year filled with AP classes and college touring, I’ve begun to realize that I’m going to need a lot of support from, as cliché as it sounds, my parents. As we’ve started communicating about classes I need to take and activities and clubs I should participate in, I’ve realized there is a disconnect between my parents’ expectations and assumptions of my high school experience and what I actually deal with. Additionally, when I’ve tried to explain situations to my parents, it sometimes results in unproductive and negative arguments, with neither side really proving anything. My peers have also expressed this disconnect, as they often comment on how their stress is increased by their parents’ expectations and their inability to facilitate understanding and meaningful communication.
In addition to a lack of communication in personal expectations, I’ve witnessed a lack of communication in parents’ expectations for the greater high school community. When I participated in the winter play at my school, “She Kills Monsters,” a play that is set in high school, all of the marketing surrounding the show had to include the label of, “adult content,” because of the language that was used and certain themes that the show encompassed (LGBTQ+ characters, death of a family member, etc.). As participants in the show, we did not feel that the content was inappropriate or deserved an “adult content” label, as this show was meant for a high school audience as it is set in a high school, and more significantly, we were not told why the parents or the school administration censored certain elements (our show opened a week after the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, and parents claimed to take issue with our poster of a mythical dragon and the fight scenes in the show for it depicted too much violence). All of this censorship and lack of communication distracted from the fact that the show was a comedy with an incredibly powerful message of embracing those who are different. Our audience attendance was far lower than it should have been because of the marketing that was used. As a student and an actor, I feel a responsibility towards advocating for my peers and communicating with parents to possibly change these misconceptions. Theater is a transgressive art and it provides an accepting environment for all students where they can express themselves in a healthy way; therefore, we must have the freedom to put on different kinds of shows. By facilitating communication between parents and students, we can understand the expectations from both sides and hopefully come to a greater understanding about the high school experience overall.
The main characters of She Kills Monsters in my school’s production (I’m pictured in the bottom right corner). Currently, we are in our fantastical Dungeons and Dragons form, but later in the show, Agnes, the main character (upper left corner), meets each of the real-life individuals behind the character who each have an insecurity. Lilith (bottom left corner) is a closeted lesbian, Orcus/Ronnie (center) has body image issues, Tilly (upper right corner) is Agnes’s sister who passed away and is in love with Lilith, and Kaliope/Kelly (me) has cerebral palsy. Though we have fight scenes and gay characters, our show was truly about accepting those who are different and “geeky.” If we had communicated these sentiments better with the parent community, our show would not have received an “adult content” label that discouraged many people from coming to see it.
Understandably, parents are concerned that during adolescence, a time when teenagers are attempting to establish their own identity, teenagers might rebel and create conflict. This fear often causes parents to set down harsh rules without explanation, ridding opportunities for discussions about familial values and expectations. My goal with this project is to help parents and teens facilitate better communication with each other to create stronger relationships and to hopefully change adolescence from being years of stress and angst to productive and healthy ones.
Why is there a discrepancy in communication between parental expectations and the reality of a high school student’s life and what changes need to be made in order to facilitate and improve this communication?
To address this issue, I plan to set up a meeting at my school in which I ask for student volunteers to serve on a panel where they can discuss what they wish was different in their relationship with their parents. Last year, I was a part of a student panel discussing mental health issues at my school, and I found the experience to be positive for both me and the parents who attended. However, I want to provide more generational context for parents in order to help them understand and apply parenting tips more effectively. By researching the historical context to our current generation’s psyche, listening and understanding the concerns of parents and students, and advocating for stress and anxiety awareness, we all would receive a better education and more insight on the issues present in my school community, which would ultimately help us improve parent-teen relationships.
Below, I have included a link to my narrated slide-show presentation:
WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?
What’s crucial to acknowledge is that empathy from both sides is essential in creating a meaningful relationship. Parents, of course, must be able to place themselves in their child’s shoes and communicate their expectations in a way a teenager can understand. Likewise, teens also need to acknowledge the complicated role of a parent by forgiving arguments and not holding grudges and to be willing to compromise. Adolescence doesn’t have to be a time of constant strife between parents and teens; in fact, both sides can be incredible sources of support for each other, as both parents and teens deal with the same anxieties about the future. We need to change these negative ideas surrounding adolescence, and that starts with initiating conversations in your own community and in your own household. I encourage you to share the presentation with your parents. Additionally, I’ve included a TedTalk and website, both of which provide great tips for improving communication between parents and teens. Though these conversations might be awkward or difficult, having your parent explain their reasoning behind their rules and expectations can lead to insightful conversations about current issues you face and differences in values and perspectives. Ultimately, you can create the opportunity to voice your anxieties and concerns and explain what you feel needs to change in your relationship.
Below, I’ve included a Padlet where you can leave thoughts about your own relationship with your parents and tips for the rest of the group. Feedback about this page is also welcome there! Thanks for reading 🙂
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Prochaska, Kris. “How to Get Your Kids to Listen and Engage.” Tedx Talks, 26 May 2015. Speech.
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What You Need to Know about Gen Z. CPA Practice Advisor.