A generation gap is nobody's fault. However, left unaddressed, it can create unnecessary misunderstandings and conflict in your family. Here's how you can understand and bridge the generation gap between you and your children.
Remember the days when cordless phones were a marvel and disc players were the coolest thing around? Now your child might be teaching you about Snapchat filters and TikTok dances. While these playful exchanges between you and your child can be a source of bonding at times, they also hint at a deeper divide.
This article isn't going to reflect the generation gap jokes you see on memes. It's a guide to understanding and bridging the generation gap with your child. The idea is to move beyond the ‘back in my day’ taunts, and ‘OK Boomer’ quips and make way for a genuine heart-to-heart. Let’s start by understanding the origins of the generation gap.
What Is A Generation Gap? Why Does It Occur?
Oxford Dictionary defines a generation gap as “A difference of attitudes between people of different generations, leading to a lack of understanding.”
Here’s an example of a generation gap: A grandfather might approach his grandson for advice on how to use a smartphone or other gadget. This one, of course, causes no problems.
But let’s look at another example of a generation gap, that often becomes a problem. A school-goer or teenager (or even a millennial parent) might choose to spend their free time on Instagram or to catch a quick episode of their favourite TV show on Netflix. Older generations might, instead, spend their free time reading, helping out around the house, or in prayer. This becomes a problem, very often, because each party tends to judge the other for their choices. It becomes about old generation vs new generation.
Evolving technology is, in fact, often one of the chief causes of a generation gap. Your parents might have complained about how much time you spent talking on the (landline) telephone, and you grumble about your children’s screen time. See the pattern?
Historically rapid evolution in technology typically leads to some unique experiences for each generation. While this diversity is beautiful, it is also the root of misunderstandings. These very differences in experiences and communication styles often make it challenging for generations to truly 'get' each other.
And then there’s the role that history and life experiences play. Your parents, or grandparents, who might have lived through India’s struggle for Independence, might not understand how young people today do not bother with reading newspapers, for example. They might be condescending about Western attire and Western tastes in food, music, and lifestyle.
Here’s one about us, the people who lived through a pandemic. Ever noticed how people today flinch – even if its ever so slightly – when someone coughs or sneezes? This is a great contrast to the previous generation that said, “God bless you” when someone sneezed. For all we know, we’ll seem paranoid to generations to come.
Fashion and beauty standards, politics and pop culture, economics, and work culture, all of these factors serve to impact how a generation perceives the world, their attitudes, beliefs, and values.
How to Bridge The Generation Gap?
Understanding is the first step, but what should you do to actually build a bridge and close the generation gap in your family?
Allow for open dialogue
Set aside time for a leisurely ‘family chat’ each week, maybe over Sunday lunch or a weekly dinner. Ensure it is a ‘no-phone zone’ (and a no-judgment zone) where everyone can share their feelings, highs, lows and everything in between. And remember, it's a safe space, so no topic is off the table.
Avoid perpetuating faulty practices
Today's challenges, like cyberbullying or the quest for the 'perfect' selfie, might seem new. But aren't the emotions similar to your past struggles? Step back and remember your childhood struggles before ridiculing or belittling your child instantly. Remember the times you craved understanding from your parents? Use that sentiment to guide your own parenting. This can help you bridge the generation gap instantly.
Every time your child opens up, it's an opportunity to strengthen your bond with them. It's not possible - or advisable - to draw parallels with your past each time, so focus on your child’s current emotions. Hear their stories and offer support without judgment or comparison.
Before you argue that respect has to be the opposite way around, consider that your child is an individual who deserves to be seen and heard. When your child shares an opinion, pause before reacting. Reflect on their viewpoint, even if you disagree. Responding with a simple ‘I understand where you’re coming from’ can make a difference.
Celebrate small victories in your quest for closeness with your child, like your teen sharing a bit more about their day today. Cherish these moments and know this bond will only grow stronger with time and care.
Dive into research, and understand the 'why' behind their behaviours. It's not about analysing them but equipping yourself with the knowledge to build a stronger bond and help them grow as individuals. Your child’s personality is shaped by your DNA, but not entirely governed by it. Getting the whole picture is critical to your efforts in bridging the generation gap. Genetic testing – which consists of psychometrics, genetics, and astromancy – can be just what you need to understand your child more deeply. It can also help them understand themselves, so you can connect better and overcome generation gap problems.
Envisioning A Better Future
Understanding the generation gap is more than just recognising differences. It's about building connections by taking actual steps to build mutual respect and empathy. That’s what actually helps bridge the generation gap between parents and children. However, to truly connect with your child, you need to better understand yourself and them. If you could understand your child’s personality traits, wouldn’t things be easier?