Connect, then Expect: Parent and Teen Relationships

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:



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.


{Communication Tips}


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 🙂

{Padlet Link}


Allen, Kimberly, et al. “An Integrative Adlerian Approach to Creating a Teen Parenting Program.” The Journal of Individual Psychology, vol. 70, no. 1, Spring 2014. Project MUSE. Accessed 16 Apr. 2018.

Bethune, Sophie. “Teen Stress Rivals That of Adults.” Monitor on Psychology, vol. 45, no. 4, Apr. 2014. American Psychological Association. Accessed 16 Apr. 2018.

Crawford, Mark. E-mail interview. 6 Feb. 2018.

Do You Have Anxiety? Advantage4Life. Accessed 23 Apr. 2018.

“Good relationship with parents may prevent teen drinking problems.” Mental Health Weekly Digest, 11 May 2009, p. 18. Opposing Viewpoints In Context, Accessed 15 Apr. 2018.

How to Adjust Your Parenting Style for the Teen Years. Accessed 23 Apr. 2018.

How to Make Your Parents Understand You. WikiHow. Accessed 23 Apr. 2018.

How to Strengthen Parent-Teen Relationship. Blogspot, 27 Feb. 2012. Accessed 23 Apr. 2018.

Kingston, Anne. “Get ready for generation Z.” Maclean’s, 21 July 2014, p. 42+. Opposing Viewpoints In Context, Accessed 15 Apr. 2018.

Osterweil, Neil. “Talking with Teens — Tips for Better Communication.” WebMD. Accessed 23 Apr. 2018.

“Parenting Teens in the 21st Century.” Montreal Times.

Parents Are Key to Safer Teen Drivers. DC on Heels. Accessed 23 Apr. 2018.

Prochaska, Kris. “How to Get Your Kids to Listen and Engage.” Tedx Talks, 26 May 2015. Speech.

Vanderver, Judith. Dungeons and Dragons Characters Strike a Pose. Digital file, 22 Feb. 2018.

What You Need to Know about Gen Z. CPA Practice Advisor.

Share this project
  1. April 27, 2018 by izzy horio

    one thing you’re project got me thinking about is “why is there such a disconnect if all parents were once in our shoes?”. i feel like parents should understand all the stress and everything we’re going through because they were once kids too, but for some reason, they don’t. it’s like they don’t remember anything they went through, or maybe they don’t want to. overall, your project is very interesting, and i really hope the parent child relationship is one that can be improved on, i know mine needs improving.

    • April 29, 2018 by Saanya Kapasi

      Your question was the exact question I had when making this project! From what I’ve observed and from what my research tells me, nostalgia does not help for acting in the present. In other words, certain aspects of adolescence that our parents experienced are the same, like substance use, friendships, and heavy school work, but many crucial things are not the same, such as the presence of social media and the competitive college application process. It’s why when you go to college visits and information sessions, parents often have most of the questions because their college application process is so different than ours with things like online applications and certain standardized testing. As teenagers, we need to open up and communicate and explain these differences so parents can support us in the specific ways we need. I hope this presentation can help you!

  2. April 29, 2018 by Sophia.Lawder-Gill

    I actually saw “She Kills Monsters” at a thespian conference; fantastic show and great messages! I think a meeting complete with student volunteers is a great idea as well to raise awareness. It’s really great that you went larger-scale. Personally I live in a single-parent house and I wonder how that as opposed to living with both parents makes relationships different.

  3. April 30, 2018 by Alex Mummery

    Saanya, thank you for sharing your project. Your topic is not only fascinating, but also necessary to think about. We all consider the disconnect between parents and teens, yet we struggle to find common ground when having conversations. I truly admire the way in which you attacked the issue at hand. By researching our generation’s cognitive functions, you put yourself in a position to confidently give advice to parents. I also really liked that you revealed the characteristics of our generation, and how that can fuel stress in our lives. I strongly agree with you that parents must explain their reasoning for setting rules. If this is not done properly, then the child will never be able to have healthy discussions about controversial topics, as you noted. Why do you think that our generation is generally more tolerant than our parents’ generation? Do you believe that our generation will create healthy relationships with our children, or do you believe that the disconnect will continue? How can we, as teens, help our parents to better understand the society that we live in?

  4. April 30, 2018 by Alex Mummery

    I think that the main issue is that parents simply did not live in the same society that we are currently living in. It is likely that we will eventually face the same problem when we become parents. Technology has truly changed everything about us and our world, and due to continuous advancements, the problem will only be perpetuated if we, as teens, do not address the issue.

  5. April 30, 2018 by leilani.ahina

    I really like the connection and integration here between your personal experience, the research, and next steps. Your experience with the play and censorship is a great example of learnign that happens in school that is not part of the planned curriculum. Perhaps these are some of the most powerful lessons.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.