It's always enriching to meet parents of children and teens at their schools, that is, in the places dedicated to their formation.
Parents can be carried away by various anxieties, worries, hopes, and feelings regarding the use of new technologies. “My child! I can feel him slipping away from my fingers, closed in on himself, in the virtual world.
It’s going to end with us not even speaking to each other. I wonder with whom is he chatting, what he’s doing this whole time on the computer, what is he seeing on these websites. What will become of him?” This is the typical experience expressed by one of the many mothers who long to cultivate the relationship with her child who may be barely thirteen years old, but who feels completely inadequate in being able to do so. Many parents, when they stop to reflect on the fact that their children live in a technological world completely different from the world they lived in, realize that it is not about taking the computer away from their children. It’s about how they can get in-touch and up-to-date, in order to know how to enter into the reality in which their children live today.
In fact, it is essential to know the world and the language of children. This is not about demonizing the new technologies, but mastering them. The goal is to make children feel that their tastes and passions are understood and accepted. The growth of this awareness drives many parents to attend computer classes in order to learn how to use the computer and the internet. Not only that. Often, parents take the initiative to create sites among themselves, to help one another educate their children on the consequences of misusing the Internet, above all because of the psychological dependencies created and the exposure to child pornography sites. Reflection on the these types of exposures often leads parents to expand their understanding of sexual education issues; to prepare themselves emotionally and scientifically, so that they know how to confront their children- in a profound rather than dismissive way- on themes of love, fertility, and procreation.
When parents of teens get together, they find it very difficult to address these issues, especially because these teens challenge rules and authority figures. “My daughter makes me so angry that sometimes I don’t even feel like speaking to her anymore and I just want to leave her to herself. Then I feel guilty and bow down to her whims and her protests. I end up letting myself be controlled by her, who is so good at putting me and my husband against each other and the two of us end up fighting. How does my husband punish her? By taking away the computer. My daughter then furiously storms off to her room and is left with pain and anger.” This is also a typical situation that many parents speak of.
Many of them understand the need to learn the language of emotions, because the crucial point in their relationship with the children, especially when they are teens, is the recognition and management of their own emotions and the emotions of their children. In fact, it’s important, especially with teens, to maintain a strong and living alliance with them by expressing the unconditional acceptance of their way of being and an understanding of their tastes. It is not to abandon one’s own logical and critical capacity, but meanwhile, to embrace the fundamental need of teens, which is to feel accepted without conditions; they need to feel that “you are okay just the way you are, I love you as you are, what is important to you is important to me” which forms a steady foundation for the bond of affection, especially as their bodies are changing, and all that follows as a consequence.
When a child feels understood and unconditionally accepted, he feels secure enough to open his heart to mom or dad, gladly leaving the computer to go speak with them, on their time, about their frustrations, fears, joys and worries of everyday life.
An example from just a few months ago: Paul was an 11 year-old boy that used to spend entire afternoons in front of the TV, PlayStation, or computer. His mother asked to speak with him because she couldn’t handle the fact that her son wouldn’t talk to her anymore and spent all his time this way, and she didn’t know how to make him stop. For a couple of years now, the woman had been separated from her husband, who cheated on her with another woman and began to beat her when she discovered the affair. The man left the house, leaving his wife alone with Paul, who refused to see his father anymore, as the agreement for the separation had established. Paul’s mother worked all day long and returned home extremely tired, with hardly any energy to dedicate to her son, who was so closed off to her. Slowly, the woman discovered that he was carrying within her a deep pain from the betrayal and the violence of her husband. She felt paralyzed from speaking to her child about how he felt about all of this. Little by little, Paul’s mother confronted her own pain and began to develop enough security to be able to support the grief of her son, listen to him, and help him. She had learned to become empathetic as she tuned into the interests of her pre-teen. Communication between Paul and his mom gradually began to address emotions regarding what had happened in the family, and the need for healing that Paul wanted from his father, for all that he had done to both him and his mother. After a time of preparation, a meeting between Paul, his mother, and his father took place. In a conversation with his father, the boy received the apology and emotional healing that he needed. The boy discovered that he had a mother he could count on and a father available to listen to him and speak with him. His life changed, and once again he took up the social activities and basketball that he used to love. Internet became a tool for learning and communicating, but his real relationships had become the most important part of his life.
Isabella Nuboloni, psychotherapist and president of the Association "Spazi di Dialogo-Aspadia".