Guide to talking

| 26 Sep 2012 | 11:27

Six years ago, Vernon resident Marcy Haase was volunteering with the Jefferson ambulance squad and responded to a call that changed her life. A young boy whose parents had recently separated hung himself in his garage from a bicycle chain. “After I saw a 15-year-old commit suicide,” Haase says, “I make sure my kids can tell me anything.”
Family Time
Haase,mother of a 17-year-old boy, 18-year-old girl, and 21-year-old boy, says that from that moment, her house has worked differently—her and her husband, Bobby, stress the importance of honesty and communication with their kids. “We eat dinner together 5 of 7 days per week,” Haase says. This “family time” is used to discuss problems, work out solutions, and enjoy each other’s company, she says. The message has hit home with the kids, too, as Haase’s youngest son, Brandon, quickly confessed to trying marijuana and not liking it and her daughter, Casie, admitted immediately when she found out she was pregnant.
“A lot of adults don’t understand their kids,” says Haase. “A lot don’t even take the time to try,” she admits, noting that some kids in her neighborhood can use slang to talk about drugs in front of their parents without them catching on. It’s a “big problem,” she says, “but if you just take an hour a day to it down and talk to your kids, you find out a whole lot.”
“Parents scare their kids a lot, I think that’s part of the problem,” Haase says. The fear, she says, makes it hard for kids to “open up.” She admits that “a little bit of fear” has its time and place, however. Discipline is important, when warranted (though Haase leaves that mostly up to her husband).
Another facet of life that teens hold dear is privacy, and Haase thinks some of the communication problems between parents and children can stem from the issue. “Everybody wants to do their own thing,” she says, but parents should know what’s going on in their children’s lives. Until they were 16, Haase’s kids weren’t even allowed to have a password on their computer.
In a train of thought very similar to the teens (see facing page), Haase says that respect is “give and take.” When she is spoken to respectfully, Haase returns the respect. Though, she admits, while she’s normally calm, she can be a bit of a hothead when one of her kids gets out of line with her. She is also quick to point out that the one who does this most is her daughter, Casie.
Due to their stronger personality and temper, Haase says, girls are harder to communicate with, in her family, at least. “Boys are hyper, girls are dramatic,” Haase says of the major difference between the two.

There are many barriers separating teens and adults. The latest trends typically cater to a younger audience and many times adults “just don’t get it,” according to many local teens. Even vocabulary becomes a barrier. Wallkill Valley Regional High School senior Rachel Card explains: “Adults almost have to become fluent in a different language” to understand teens. As a term takes on a new meaning, she adds, an adult may hear one thing and interpret it as something else.
Take the word ‘troll,’ for example—a term once relegated mainly to the pages of fairy tales and fantasy literature. The word is now used to describe a person who provokes unnecessary heated debate by intentionally provoking others in online forums for fun. In Rachel’s thinking an adult may hear their child call someone a ‘troll’ and assume they’re being a bully when, in actuality, the recipient may take it as a compliment.
High Point Regional High School sophomore Marissa Ciancitto says that another reason for a “lack of communication” between teens and adults is fear. She uses peer pressure as an example: “When something is pushed upon a teen,” she says, “they may not want to tell their parents.” Even if the action is something they aren’t likely to do again, she says, teens sometimes fear upsetting, shaming, or embarrassing their parents(or a combination of the 3) and will avoid opening a line of communication in the first place.
Teen Sympathy
Marissa also feels for parents. “Sometimes kids don’t understand the stress parents are going through,” she says. This lack of understanding is the root cause of most of the problems between teens and adults. “Parents are only doing what’s best for their child and the child has to realize that.”
Rachel also has something she keeps in mind when dealing with her parents, as well as adults in general. “Respect is respected,” she says; “adults are likely going to treat you like you treat them.”
Bridging the Gap

One way to bridge the gap is to build similar interests. West Milford’s Rachael Roykovich and her mom decided to take a jewelry-making class together. It not only became a hobby, but a philanthropic business that helped bring Rachael out of depression: “I wouldn’t be in the right mindset now if it weren’t for my family,” she said.