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Questions answered by Selma Cook

Generation Gap – Are You Suffering?Question 1 – Noor, Australia
Salam alikuom, Why don't our parents let us go out more with our friends? When they do this with me,I feel that they don't trust me.
Answer:  Assalam alaikum Noor,

Thanks so much for your question - it's a good one! We all would like to be free to do whatever we like and whenever we like. I'm also sure your parents would like that too, but, alas, life is often not so simple.

Now, I don't know your parents of course so I'm going to have to speak generally - what I know about parents. First thing is that parents love their kids! They might go overboard on this from time to time, like being over protective or picky or nagging but at the end of the day they do all this because they care.

Now, I also know some parents who let their kids go out whenever and wherever they want but these kinds of parents don't really care so much about their kids; they're kind of lazy. You know, parents sit down and talk about being parents! And we discuss things like troublesome kids, or kids that are just great! We discuss the problems and try to help each other. I guess this is very similar to what teenagers do too - but you guys would be talking about 'troublesome parents' and 'parents that are just great'!

Knowing that, you should see that parents spend a lot of time and energy worrying about their kids, planning for them and doing stuff for them. It's not like we just stand with a stick and give orders! There's a lot going on in our heads and so much we're worried about.

We also remember when we were young and getting up to mischief. And it's scary to think of letting our kids go out into the big bad world and there are endless possibilities of what may happen. So sometimes, parents just opt for 'stay home' while thinking 'at least then I'll know where you are!'

Quite often too, it's not that parents don't trust their kids, they don't trust the other people around them. Parents are also aware that their teens might be a bit naive and so would be easy prey for any trouble maker or fast talker!

So here is what I suggest. Nine times out of ten, if you show your parents that you are: (1) mature (2) make good decisions (3) think rationally (4) are responsible (5) are trustworthy and do all these things on an everyday basis, then apart from being 'nearly an angel!!!!' your parents will just have to admire and TRUST you! Show them that you have good and decent friends. Let your parents meet and mix with your friends and then ask to go out on short trips or shopping nearby and so on, then slowly they'll trust your ability to cope with situations. Because I really think that's what it's all about. Parents want to see that their kids can cope with many kinds of people, and situations and make right decisions.

All the best Noor and let us know how you go.

Generation Gap – Are You Suffering?

Question 2 – Adam    - United Kingdom

Why do so many parents get divorced? Why can't they fix their problems? How are we supposed to cope with all these problems? I am 16 years old , and I feel lost.
my dad doesn't bother to contact us.

Answer: Salam alaikum Adam,

Thanks for your question - even though I feel sad that you are going through all this.

Now, if we could answer your question about 'why people get divorced' I think we would have solved much of the world's problems! The trouble is that people divorce for a multitude of reasons and I guess even if we understood the reasons, it would not change the reality.

The adult world spins in its own direction and the 'world' of young people like you, spins in another. So let's look at what we do now. You are sixteen and going through a hard time. Your father doesn't contact you often. I assume you are living with your mum and that she is there for you.

First, I think it's really important to accept things that are out of our control. No one wants their parents to get divorced but ultimately it's their decision and we can just hope that they give their children their rights. So, try to take a deep breath and accept what has happened, then move on to the next step.

Now, the next step is to look around you and see who is there for you. In your case, it may be your mum or another relative. Then, you have to appreciate the person who is there for you. If it's your mum, go and give her a hug and tell her that you love her. She needs comfort and reassurance too!

If you open up the relationship with your mum you will feel stronger and if both of you turn to Almighty Allah for help and guidance, there is no limit to the help and guidance you will receive.

How to cope with it all? Well, it's like everything else - we have to cope one step at a time. Ask yourself, what you have to do today? What can you do today to make things easier for your mum and other family members? Now, you might be thinking that you asked the question today about yourself - but the truth is, that if you only concentrate on yourself you usually don't get anywhere, but if you focus on helping others, you automatically help yourself! So just start and reach out to those immediately around you. Try to help in practical ways; be there for them.

Now your dad hasn't contacted you. There could be a number of reasons for that. Let's do the Islamic thing and give him 70 excuses! And if after all that, he still hasn't contacted you, then you could contact him! Just drop him a short letter or email and simply say "I miss you dad. Can you call me?" He just might be thinking that you are upset with him and don't want him. Adults misunderstand things too, and they definitely make wrong decisions from time to time. Maybe if you reassure him that you really want to communicate with him, he will make the next step.

And most importantly of all, don't forget to turn to Almighty Allah. If there is anything in your life that upsets you, that you don't like, that you think is a problem, turn to Almighty Allah, and ask for help and guidance. After that continue on your way and do your best and you will find that things will work out; and even if they don't work out as you'd hoped, at least you'll feel better about it.

I pray that Almighty Allah answers your duas. Let us know how things get on.

Generation Gap – Are You Suffering?

Question 3 – Amena    - Germany
Salamo alykoum

My parents always believe that I can't depend on myself, and they treat me as an irresponsible person, although I'm not, and I 'm trying all the time to prove the opposite. I need your advice.

Answer: Assalam alaikum Amena,

thanks so much for your question. This is a common problem. Parents often find it difficult to let their kids grow up; a leave the nest.

You might look in the mirror and see a grown up, mature person but they might look at you and see the little girl they love; in their minds you might still be a school girl who is in need of lots of love and protection.

Perhaps when you show them that you are responsible and independent you are really pushing their 'panic buttons' because maybe, inside, they are scared that you're growing up and going away.

So why not try this. Try to get closer to them; let them feel your love, respect and caring. Let them know that you will never leave them; that you will always be a vital part of their lives and vice versa. Help them to get used to you being grown up.

At the same time, be responsible but don't forget that it's ok to ask them for things. Parents and kids (no matter how old they are!) must have a sharing, mutual relationship and this should last all our lives through.

The goal is not to grow up and move away and be independent. The goal is to grow up, be mature and responsible and help your parents. There is never a time when you and your parents don't share your lives. Even after their death, we still pray for our parents and be good to their friends and loved ones. It doesn't end. This is the Islamic take on things.

We might hear in the world today, a lot of talk about 'this is my life' and 'I do as I please' but in Islam, relationships are pivotal and vital for our happiness and well-being. We don't grow up in a family, simply to move away from it when we mature - we grow up but we give back and nurture each other.

May Allah bless you and your parents and help you to understand each other better. All the best.

Generation Gap – Are You Suffering?
Question 4 – Waleed    - South Africa
Salaam Alaikum

The older generation tend to forget that they were also once young, and seem unable to relate to us. What does it take to bring them back to reality and perhaps even remind them that they were once young?

Answer: Assalam alaikum Waleed,

Many thanks for your question - oh to be young again! You brought up a very important point - 'bring them back to reality.'

That's the whole thing about the generation gap - this is your reality and that was their reality. So, I guess there is nothing called 'reality' that applies to everyone equally. What we can hope to do though is to try to see each other's reality. This requires patience, a listening ear and a sensitive heart. Do you have those things?

Sometimes parents get so caught up with trying to bring up their kids, that they do really forget what it was like to be young. Maybe, when they were young it was difficult and they might prefer to forget. I assume your parents would have grown up under Apartheid? That wouldn't have been much fun.

Why don't you try asking them to tell you about when they were young and as they talk, try to draw parallels with what you are going through today. The first thing to do is to engage them in the communication process. Let them into your world; try to let them see how things are for you.

Quite often, young people cut themselves off from their parents who are at a loss of how to break down those barriers! So help them! Let them into your world and show them what it's like to be growing up in the world today.

Another thing I've found is that if you show people your love for them, they soften. This is true unless the person is hard hearted -in which case a new strategy would be required. But mostly, people respond to tenderness and openness. So try it - try opening up; trust them that they love you, be aware of their pain and their fears ,and let them know you acknowledge all that.

It's all based on communication; effective healthy communication.

So try it and let us know how you go. All the best.

Generation Gap – Are You Suffering?

Question 5 – Laila    - Bangladesh
Salamo Alykoum

I think my parents, aunts and uncles are so clueless about the things we go through. they keep saying things like, "When we were young, we never did such and such thing."

Why can't they understand that our world is different, and that a lot of things didn't exist in their time, like internet, mobiles, etc? Why do they just assume that I'm doing something wrong when I spend time on the net or my mobile? I don't do anything bad. I only chat with my friends, but they always feel that I'm the worst person in the world.

Thank you

Answer: Assalam alaikum Laila,

Thanks so much for your question. You are right; kids need people to trust them and make excuses for them.

One thing is for sure though, I'm sure everyone gets into mischief when they are young. Maybe they just choose to forget and hope they are being a good role model for you. Why don't you ask their mother to tell you about when they were young and get some funny stories then talk to them in a light-hearted way. In this way, you'll be reminding them of what it was like when they were growing up, and try to draw parallels with what you are going through today.

Ask them things like: Uncle! If you had a mobile phone when you were sixteen what would you have done with it? Now, he might think for a minute then have a wicked smile! Then tell him what you do with yours; how you talk to your friends, the kinds of things you talk about and let him see the list of names on your phone and tell him about each person. Just something small so he feels comfortable. If you don't have anything to hide, this shouldn't be a problem.

Don't forget that our parents and relatives love the kids in their family and that there are real concerns in the world today. They are worried about so much and perhaps they are right; perhaps there are dangers out there that you don't know about....

Why not ask them what they are worried about and be open and try to understand. This will help them to trust you more because you will be showing maturity.

So all the best!

Generation Gap – Are You Suffering?

Question 6 – Farzeen    - Tanzania

I don't consider my situation entirely strange. For some reason I can openly talk to my grandmother who, in spite of her age, understands me and is a great listener, and never judges me. But I can't relate the same way to my parents. When I talk about stuff, even about boys, they don't want to hear it. They just say I must concentrate on my studies and forget about boys.

I don't even have a boyfriend but I have a wide circle of friends that includes boys. I think my parents live in a different world.

Answer: Assalam alaikum Farzeen,

Thanks so much for your question - and you are so fortunate to have your grandmother.

Almighty Allah gave us families and part of the blessings of this is that we have a network. So if a person doesn't get along with one or both parents, they have aunties, uncles, cousins or in your case, grand parents! Families fill in each other's gaps, and indeed, this is a blessing to thank Almighty Allah for.

It is really important that you do not misunderstand your parents. Even if they don't relate to you as well as your grandmother does, it certainly doesn't mean that they don't care about you; even cherish you! They just see things in a different way.

So our duty toward your parents is very clear; Almighty Allah tells us in the Quran to treat them well, to bring them close to us and cherish them and never say a bad word to them. We should also be ever so gentle with them and give them our best treatment. Basically, we should make them happy as much as we are able.

So your grandmother understands you, relates well with you and communicates with you! wow! That is indeed a blessing and you get to benefit from her life long experience and wisdom. Your parents are bugging you about your studies and that is important and I'm sure you will thank them for it one day when you are working and successful insha Allah!

Just don't forget to give. Always look for ways to give back and make others happy and by doing this, you will find you will be happy too.

All the best!

Generation Gap – Are You Suffering?

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