Parents. The ones in our lives we have the most love-hate relationship with. Growing up, our parents were our heroes. Our role models. Our best friends. But as we grow up, we start creating a wall between us. It doesn’t matter who built the wall. It’s there. And oftentimes, we find ourselves unable to break that wall even when we want to with all our hearts.
A toxic cycle of blame game
Over time, it becomes more and more difficult to break that wall. You want to ask your parents how their day went, you want to hug your mother and say that you love her, you want to do so many things and yet you don’t. Years and years of miscommunication stops you from pouring your heart out for the ones who loved you more than their own lives.
How does this happen and why? We keep asking ourselves. We feel guilty and we blame ourselves. And so does our parents. They keep blaming themselves too for becoming distant with their children. It’s a never-ending cycle in our society.
In the back burner, a toxic culture of avoidance, of ignorance and of miscommunication is to blame for this. An unhealthy lack of awareness and understanding. Not us and most certainly not our parents.
Breaking barriers with Jomano Kotha
An event called Jomano Kotha: Exploring parent-child relationships, organised by Kotha, aimed to raise awareness and put a stop to this toxic culture. Taking place at the EMK Centre last October 12th, Jomano Kotha featured counselling specialists and others involved with the cause.
They discussed a variety of topics regarding factors influencing communication and how to approach difficult situations. The major talking point was the mutual factor of communication. That it is a two-way process with reciprocation a requirement on either end.
Understanding both sides
We often fail to understand what our parents go through. This is only multiplied by the fact that most parents do not feel the necessity to include their children in conversations relating to important family decisions, leaving a feeling of unwantedness in the children.
From the other end, it is almost a similar picture. As we go through adolescence and step into adulthood, we start creating a personal sphere. And we assume that our parents cannot a part of that sphere.
Maybe because they won’t listen. Or maybe because we think they won’t.
Creating the space-A parent’s duty
Whatever it may be, the responsibility for creating an encouraging environment for honest and potentially sensitive communication falls on the parent. And one should not blame him/herself for situations where parents aren’t carrying out that duty. It is really easy to fall into a cycle of self-blaming and self-hate in such situations, and the speakers at Jomano Kotha suggested avoiding that path in any way possible.
On the other side, parents were asked to be patient and listen to their children because simply listening attentively goes a long way in breaking down many figurative barriers. Parents should encourage children to communicate their grievances, or at least try to create that opportunity to speak about it.
Towards a better culture
“Family is at the heart of South Asian culture. However, a large part of this culture is also unhealthy and toxic to an extent. Communication barriers with parents were one of the most common struggles that the adolescents we work with mentioned and it was also something we noticed in too many of our friends.
Kotha wanted to explore parent-child relationships in Bangladesh to see what it would be like to redefine those relationships and interactions. Our challenge for Jomano Kotha was to frame this issue as a societal and cultural issue. By bringing private, individualized conversations out into the public sphere we were able to do just that.
We did not expect such an big response from both demographics – parents and children and we noticed a real demand from people to engage in these conversations but in a healthy, constructive manner. We were so happy to host a full house and received requests to start a Jomano Kotha series. Our greatest success was to be able to create the space for such honest and genuine conversation between generations.”Says Umama Zillur, founder of Kotha who organised the event
Jomano Kotha featured discussion sessions by experts, interactive theatres which gave the parent-child pairs to speak their minds through characters and art activities that strengthened parent-child bonding through art and crafts.
All of these to put a stop to our habit of saying “Ma tumi bujhba na” and our parents’ never-ending “Eta boroder bepar”. Here’s to hoping that we build up a culture of inclusivity and clear communication from both sides. Here’s to the unspoken words. Here’s to us and our parents.
Kotha is a primary intervention program aiming to address the culture of violence in Bangladesh. Although we work in a few different areas, Kotha’s flagship project is Kotha at School, a school-based interactive curriculum that teaches adolescents about issues of gender, consent, relationships, bullying etc alongside traditional subjects.