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Ι would like to share with you a small part of a conversation I had with a «fairly new» appointed mother… aged 35, who was worried about the tremendous changes in lifestyle among herself and her kids… (she was Greek by the way).  ‘I remember when I was attending high school that every Sunday, we would have lunch together; my parents, my two brothers and me! Typically my mother would have spent her whole day preparing the food, which usually consisted of roast meat, and everyone very happily would gather around the table. Usually in the afternoon I had to do all the homework for the next day, preparing myself for the new week ahead!  Monday mornings were always hard; waking up and trying to catch the school bus is a very vivid memory! My schedule was tough but there was always room to catch up and spend time with my parents, especially during the weekends, and I truly enjoyed that!  Things were easier and more carefree during the summer time. My family and I would go and live in our summerhouse, and I remember myself hanging around in the back yard all day long!  My parents would return back from work, and then we would all spend time in the yard, or arrange to have dinner with our next door neighbours and their kids, laughing out loud, just having fun!  Is there anything in common with my childhood memories and my children’s future experiences? Will it ever be the same again?’

I can’t recall how many times I have heard this kind of comments! Nowadays, most parents are afraid that there is not enough time to do anything, let alone spend time with your kids, especially having lunch all together on Sundays!!! And if they do manage to have lunch all together, there is a very big likelihood that everyone will be eating something different, (ie. chinese take away, pizza, green salad for the vegetarians, etc), while at the same time kids will be too busy tweeting or posting on Facebook, while talking with their mothers about their homework being done! I guess it is very clear that there are huge differences between the one account and the other. Could this be that the first account is better than the second one? Could it be that nowadays the modern families are heading towards problematic interactions, or could it be that this is an emerging new way of communication within the family members, involving potentially more freedom and tolerance?

I would suggest not jumping into conclusions, but instead I would like to remind you that the nature of life itself is ever-changing. It is rather unrealistic to suggest that parents can predict or avoid this sort of lifestyle changes. On the contrary, I would encourage parents to accept, adopt and evolve accordingly. It is true that nowadays, children’s behaviour and families in general are no longer guided by strict rules and harsh discipline, as it did in the past. For example, it is no longer appropriate to put a label on a child’s behaviour as problematic or even lazy, without considering the possibility of learning difficulties instead. It is also true that nowadays most children exhibit a much more ‘forthcoming behaviour’, which could seem more advanced. However, there is a very big difference and that is, that children are exposed to a much more ‘stimulating’ environment.

Nowadays, most children feel very much at ease with technology, with mobile phones, with laptops, or even ipads; due to this exposure, there is a greater likelihood that children will be informed about social phenomena, the environmental changes, the multicultural society, creating a rather stimulating family environment for parents too. One thing is for sure; that being a parent nowadays is very stressful, very demanding, but at the same time there are some many things that parents should be proud of! It is understandable for parents to feel lost at times, as there is no guarantee. There is no explicit rule or advice that can guarantee that you will make a good parent! I would recommend for parents to be receptive and open to new ideas, while holding in mind or being guided by values and ideas from their past. It is the parents’ responsibility to make the time and effort to understand the new lifestyle, regardless how hard it can be at times. Communication means being able to change and try things differently, outside one person’s comfort zone.

My best advice for the ‘new era’ parents is to enjoy the process; instead of feeling afraid and bombarded with all the changes, I would suggest putting yourselves in your children’s shoes. Do you remember how hard it was for you too to understand your parents’ behaviour when you were teenagers?

The most important advice I would like to give to you is be ready to adapt to the current situation; it is for your children’s and your welfare. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have lunch every Sunday, you could use the time you spend driving to discuss with your children instead. It is not useful to try to stick to old patterns of communication, when communication has taken such a different twist! Find the most suitable (according to your family lifestyle) way of communication, as long as you give yourself and your children the opportunity to know each other. You will be pleasantly surprised!

Eva Lychrou is a psychotherapist based in London, helping people deal with family issues, relationship difficulties and self development in general.

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