Sun, 21 Dec 2003

What do teenagers and adults think of each other?

Luca Ferrini , Contributor, Bogor, West Java

Some adults think teenagers are trouble-makers and hard to predict, while teenagers often find adults difficult to talk to. The writer talked to people from both age groups and asked them what they thought of each other.

Anhar Hardjakusumah, 13, is a student of the International School of Bogor: I don't talk much to my parents. I am used to a lifestyle in which, especially growing up, adults don't interfere much. I prefer to solve the problems I have by myself or with my friends. This doesn't mean I don't trust mum and dad anymore but certainly less than previously. I find this strange at times. But I guess this is normal teenage development.

I realize though that asking for help, advice or comfort is useful. I usually talk to my parents about school, and less about my feelings, my thoughts and my opinions of their behavior.

If I could change something about adults, I would make them calmer and less emotional. In fact, adults get mad at other people over little things. They should control their emotions and try to understand, instead of getting angry straight away.

Cynthia Hardjakusumah, is a teacher at the International School of Bogor: Of my four children -- nine, 13, 16 and 19 years old, I probably talk more to the girls. Not because they are the elder two, but probably because, they feel more at ease talking to a parent of the same sex. In total, though, I talk to my children for about an hour and a half each day.

I find moments to speak to them also about their problems and feelings. When this happens, however, it is usually because I ask them about what's going on, and if everything is okay. It's my attempt to get them to open up. That's the reason why I only talk to them more or less every other day about these more personal things.

I have noticed the relationship with my children has changed over the last few years. When they were smaller it was more about having fun, while now it is a more personal and intense relationship. If I could change something about my children, I would make them talk more openly, without me having to ask them all the time.

Luca Ferrini, 13, is a student of the International School of Bogor: I feel that my relationship with my mum and dad has changed enormously over the last two or three years.

It is harder for me to speak openly to them. Many times I prefer to keep my thoughts and my problems to myself.

I have never been a person who has liked to share my thoughts with others. Now I find it even harder. But when I do find the courage to share my problems with my parents, I don't regret it. Instead, I feel more confident and mature. I sense that I can partake in more complex conversations with them.

Also, I am more inclined to be less accepting of them in everyday life. Many times I feel confident enough to disagree with them on what they say or do, but not always.

My parents understand me quite well, but are sometimes too intrusive. But I might be totally wrong about this. A positive side of growing up, however, is that mum and dad allow me greater opportunities to express my opinions in family decision-making. This means I can share and better understand their choices.

Elena Fumi, is an Italian Lecturer with the University of Indonesia and Ferrini's mother: I think the teenage phase is the best phase in life. It is very intense. It also has unhappy and difficult moments, but I think it is the nicest of life's many chapters.

My son Luca has just become a teenager. With this change are changes in our relationship. On the one hand, I have more respect for his privacy, for his thoughts and actions. On the other hand we talk more about the world in general, about more difficult and "grown up" subjects.

We usually talk in the evening, but sometimes that's not a good time. It's not always easy to find the right moment to talk. But if sometimes one of us wants to discuss something, we try to find a suitable occasion. One thing I think teenagers should change is to worry less about what their peers think of them.

Clara Summers, 12, is a student of the International School of Bogor: I live most of the time with my mum because my parents are separated. Probably this makes my relationship with her more intimate.

Growing up, I feel it has become easier for me to discuss things with mum. I talk to her a lot. We chat mainly about animals and school, but several times a week I find time to share my problems and feelings with her. Especially now, I feel more comfortable in talking to her, less shy, a bit more grown up.

When I have very big problems, strangely enough, I prefer to write them in my diary, then, wait one or two days before telling her. Sometimes mum asks me how things are going, but it is mainly me that asks for time to talk.

Mum is nearly always ready to listen to me, but in time I have learned to approach her at the right moment, particularly when I want something from her. Most adults are like this.

If I could change something about adults, I would change their way of treating adolescents and kids. Often adults say: "he's not mature yet" or "they aren't old enough to give their opinion on this". I would like them to consider us more adult-like.

Marcy Summers, is a biologist with The Nature Conservancy environment conservation organization and Clara's mother: I talk a lot to my children, probably more than any of us wants to. Most days we also find moments to talk about more private things, whether good or bad. We chat mainly in the evening about how things are going. I think talking helps my children not to be withdrawn.

Over the last few years, with my children getting older and us coming to Indonesia, our relationships have become stronger and more intense. This has helped the family in the challenges we face in this new country.

It is both my children and I that ask to talk about difficult situations, problems, or ask advice. I like my children as they are. I don't have any complaints about their behavior, but they probably do about mine!.

-- The author is a student of the International School of Bogor, in Bogor, West Java.