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Navigating the other side of the hill

University of Calgary student develops guide for dealing with difficult parents

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It is only natural that parents and children butt heads every once in a while. The teen years in particular can be tricky to navigate and may cause tension in families that are the focus of many self-help books. Fourth-year educational psychology student Emily Breyer has taken a different angle on the strain in parent-child relationships, however, by focusing on the changes parents undergo in their late 40s and early 50s.

“There are so many books, programs and therapeutic practices aimed at teenagers as the source of family trouble, but this way of thinking is narrow minded,” Breyer said. “I instead chose to focus on the changes parents face in this time of their life and the ways in which teenagers can cope with them.”

Breyer is currently in the process of publishing her first book, The Other (Darker) Side of the Hill, in which she identifies the three main ways teenagers and young adults can cope with parents at this difficult age.

1. Make sure your parents knows that change is normal

When your parents get to this age, they may notice differences, physically and emotionally. For example, your parents may be experiencing erectile dysfunction or menopause for the first time. This is a time of change for your parents, and sometimes that change can be new and scary. If your parents are hesitant to talk to you about these issues, be sure to provide them with resources where they can learn more about this time in their lives. Though it may be uncomfortable, make sure your parents know that these things are normal and that this is all part of growing up.

2. Support, support support

In this stage of their lives, you may notice your parents’ tastes and interests change. Your parents may start wearing socks with sandals or showing interest in things they previously did not, such as fibre. Although you may not agree with all the choices your parents are making or share their interests, it is very important — as long as they are not engaging in risky activities — that your parents know that they are in a safe environment where they will not be criticized for expressing themselves and being who they are.

3. Allow independence, but set boundaries

You will likely find that in this stage of your parents’ lives they will want to be independent. Now that their children are grown up, they will be looking to go out into the world and try new things. Experimentation can be fun and healthy for parents — as long as it is in moderation. Parents nowadays are exposed to technology much different than the technology they grew up with. This technology can be exciting and fun, but parents today can’t always handle the responsibility that goes with it. It is not uncommon to see parents posting their every move on Facebook, going on about “the Twitter” and gushing about what seems to be the newest drug, Candy Crush. In order to prevent your parents from getting mixed up in these problematic habits, it is important that you discuss them with your parents before they are exposed to them themselves. Make sure your parents know the dangers associated with these addictive substances and when they gain your trust, reward them with independence.

These years can be difficult on both you and your parents, but it is important to know that this hell will not last forever. Your parents may change and rebel during these years of their lives, but that is just a sign that they are en route to becoming rational, functional human beings capable of minding their own goddamn business.

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