As a mom in my 40’s, I find the next generation both delightful and a source of mystery. I realize this happens to every generation – now it’s my turn. (Psst, it’s not as fun on this side.) For each generation the source of mystery changes and yet “the generation gap” is consistently felt. I really enjoy my kids and their friends, these “Millennials” and “Linksters”. The mystery, for me, is their technology, culture and associated language. Things like meh, vine fail, or selfie were never in our dictionary. Their birth into an online, coffee culture definitely affects their beliefs, tastes and values.
All generations of teens value independence, yet my expression was very different than my teens. Technology is a huge deal to them. Their expression of adolescent independence is directly linked to a digital device. For me, independence was centered on car keys.
I went back to university in my forties; my education as a mature student both helps me navigate and understand the generation gap. The last time I was in school microfiche was new. Yikes! I quickly learned (albeit the hard way) better ways to digitally navigate my education. For example, group projects managed through Facebook, online research rules (not books) and online lectures with discussion boards.
All this to say, I am comfortable in a digital world; but it’s not home for me, not like my kids. I flounder to both understand and navigate. What takes me time to learn is almost instant for them. My eyes are just gaining focus on a screen they are showing me, when they have consumed the screen and swipe forward. Yeesh, slow down a little, I’m trying here! But they don’t slow down; consequently, I run to keep up. It’s a lot of work and at times it’s overwhelming. But guess what? It’s worth the effort. I want to understand my teens beliefs, tastes and values. After all these beliefs, tastes and values are what separate the generations, what cause the gap.
My goal is to minimize the divide; clearly a gap exists, but it doesn’t have to be vast or divisive.
My education taught me to look ahead a generation; to identify whom I admire. I admire many baby boomers in their ability to consistently adapt to the changing times. Conversely, I see traits I work to avoid. In those I admire, it’s their adaptive ability which makes them delightful, engaging, fun and a source of wisdom. It’s true, they don’t navigate 2016 consuming media and swiping forward, but they aren’t afraid of 2016 either. That’s who I want to be. I want to embrace change, not fear it. Psychology has taught me that adapting is a healthy way to age. Life experience has taught me two things. First, I have a choice: to adapt or not. Second, that adapting provides relational connection points, which bridge the gap. I must choose to embrace the differences (not fight them) of the next generation. Sometimes it’s hard, sometimes it hurts, but in the end, it helps me to be curious and interested. And these are my relationship building blocks, my bridge to the next generation.
What Can YOU Do? Pay attention to the culture in your household. Learn new things along with your kids and be willing to listen! Share this post with others who may find it helpful!