Why are some youths estranged from their parents?

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What you need to know:

  • First, before effective communication can occur, a good relationship needs to be established by both parties taking responsibility for the relationship.

  • If you have not been in touch with your parents or child, initiate contact, let them know that you’d be interested in developing or renewing your relationship with them.

  • After that, find activities you both enjoy and can take part in as a way to connect together and bond as you do things together. 

‘This is a lost generation’ is a statement that has been overused. Many adults don’t shy from pointing out the faults in today’s young people and what they themselves did differently during their time. Most adults feel that young people have deviated from the straight and narrow path.

However, research shows that young people are not entirely to blame for the gap in communication between parents and their children. Do you remember the last time you bonded with parents or spent quality time with your child?

Communication is a basic human need. If young people are not communicating with their parents, seeking guidance and sharing their problems, they must be doing that with other people. Problem is, the other confidants might not have their best interests at heart. We are in a situation where poor communication is causing parents to outsource morals.

So, who are young people communicating with and how exactly is the quality of their communication with their parents? Who is to blame for any faults in children’s relationships with their parents?

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Joel Mureithi, 31
There certainly is a gap in communication between young people and their parents. This disconnect, I believe, stems from parents’ desire to have their children correct their past mistakes. When parents try to force their children to become the people they wish they had become, it leads to rebellion, not success.

Also, there are parents who keep lecturing their children about how they used to do things during their time, ignoring the fact that times have changed.

In many African homes, it is extremely rare to find a parent who apologises verbally to a child. In place of a proper apology, many opt to treat a child to a special meal without saying what needs to be said.

My parents and I communicate openly, but there are things I can’t share with them. I keep them informed about my health, education and career. However, I can’t talk to them about my family, unless I encounter a rocky patch with my wife, or there’s a development that involves them. My wife is my sole confidant.

With parents, the more you live with them, the more you understand what you should share with them and what you shouldn’t. I have previously made the mistake of oversharing with my parents, and I got a very unexpected reaction. That’s why my communication with them is based on how they reacted in the past.

I have learnt to only involve my parents in things that affect me. Good communication doesn’t mean telling your parents things that don’t involve them.

As a father of one, I insist that my daughter communicates openly and freely with me. I desire to understand her better instead of imposing my ideas on her without listening. I am also striving to be real with her. I want to avoid dwelling on how I was raised because we are living in a modern age.

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Erick Williams Ambwara, 23
As a student of journalism and digital media, good communication is very important in my practice. Moreso, my hobbies include painting, drawing and woodwork, and they all call for effective communication.

However, when it comes to my parents, things are not that straight forward. You can’t be open about everything that is going on in your life. You have to limit the information you share.

Being African, I am bound by the cultural assumption that it is taboo and disrespectful to talk with my parents about certain things. I like it that way. In case I need someone to confide in or I have a problem, the first person I go to is my elder sister. She’s been my best friend for the longest time and I trust her not to judge me. The fact that we are peers means that we can relate to each other’s issues.

I think communication between young people and their parents is hampered by the fact that many parents are stuck with the mentality that theirs will be children forever, regardless of their age. Such parents don’t allow for room to make independent decisions and their children remain fearful of their parents even as adults. At times, parents are unavailable for communication or are judgemental and never give room for freedom of expression.

When I become a parent, I plan to use what I have learnt to make it easier for my children to talk with me. I will listen actively, maintain eye contact, be honest and let them know that they have been heard and their opinions are valued. I will use my professional skills of communication with my children.

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Nancy Jemutai, 23
I know my parents like the back of my hand. Through years of living with them, I have learnt what topics I can talk about with my father and which ones are better shared with my mother. There are things I will share with my dad because of his broad perspective of things and some that I will share with my mum because of her ability to understand and connect with me emotionally. There are also things that I will completely not share with them because neither of them will understand me. I am very satisfied with the nature of communication between my parents and I, but it wasn't always the case.

Time and growth on my end has made my parents more approachable to me now compared to when I was a bit younger. I would be scared of telling them certain things because of fear of how they would react. As a result, I ended up keeping a lot of things about myself from them. However, studying psychology and growing up have opened my eyes on how to relate and communicate better.

Now that I am grown, I have realised that I am entitled to my own opinion, and everyone doesn’t have to agree with it. Additionally, I am not immune to mistakes, and just because my parents might get mad at me or react differently to what I might expect, that does not mean they don’t love me.

For instance, I recently shared my future plans with my father, and my old self was still very fearful of how he’d react. In my head I had played out the whole situation and the possible outcomes I thought of were not pleasant. Still, I decided to share my plans with my father. To my surprise, he was glad that I had such plans and he promised to support me in achieving them. That made me very happy and proud of myself. I feared he would disapprove of my plans but was pleasantly surprised that he was supportive.

I don’t think there is one specific reason to blame for the rift between parents and children because every family’s experience is different. That said, I think the generational gap plays a huge role in the disconnect.

Our parents were brought up differently and they now have to handle children who are not afraid of talking about some topics. Some parents may feel embarrassed to discuss the issue of relationships and sex with their children. 

We communicate with our parents depending on how comfortable they make us and whether they encourage us to speak freely or not. But still, I wouldn’t blame those who don’t effectively communicate with their children because no one was given a manual on parenting.