How kids can resolve the generation gap

Tanni asks: What should children do to reduce the generation gap between adults and children?

That’s a fascinating question. Lots of our readers probably don’t know the term “Generation Gap.” It showed up in America in the 1960s when people noticed that parents and kids were disagreeing about way more things than ever before. Of course there’d always been disagreement about things like homework and chores, but now the young people were listening to music their parents couldn’t understand or tolerate, rejecting their parents’ values in countless ways, and even shouting very different political views, especially about the war that was going on at the time.

Ever since then, there’s always been a generation gap, but it’s usually been about tastes and technology. Teenagers tend to like music that their parents can’t stand, either because of the actual sound, or because the parents find the words offensive. Similarly, fashions are always changing, but it seems that every ten years or so, teens will adopt a look their parents find horrific – whether long hair, shaved hair, dyed hair, piercings, tattoos, goth makeup, whatever! And of course technology progresses so fast today that it’s hard for parents to keep up with what their kids are using. Today’s parents didn’t have cell phones when they were kids, so the idea that newer cell phones do things like text or sending pictures… they often just don’t know how to even deal with them!

But you ask what kids can do to reduce the generation gap. And since parents and kids aren’t screaming at each other about values the way they once did (today it just seems all the humans are screaming at all the other humans about values instead!), I think you probably mean stuff that’s more about your own family or community. What can kids there do to not be so separate from their parents or other adults?

Well, I’m of two opinions here. The first is that it’s really important and necessary for kids to “break away” from their parents in many ways. While it may seem silly, wearing different clothes and listening to different music are very important, as ways to help the kids define themselves. So although I’d never want a piercing (I hate shots enough – I sure don’t want any unnecessary points going into me!), I respect the desire young people have for them. And remember, there was a time when all the parents hated The Beatles, which is now the most popular music there is. There’s a case where the kids were right – the parents just needed to catch up!

But at the same time, it’s really good for kids to connect with their parents and other adults too. And I’d say the best way is to show Interest. How often does a young girl talk with her mother about what her favorite music is, or was? How often does a teenage boy ask his dad detailed questions about his work? How often does anyone in their college years take a minute to think “What is there about my parents I’ve never known or thought to ask?”

Or even better, ask about their values. Just for a few minutes, stop arguing that you’re right about something, and really try to see their point of view. You don’t have to change your mind and agree with them, but you’ll learn about them, and get closer to them.

But I’ll be honest with you, Tanni. Kids are kids, and they’re supposed to be kids. All these things I’m suggesting, I would even more strongly urge the adults to do, with the kids. Ask them about themselves, find out what they care about, and most important, Listen. That will do more to erase the difficulties of the generation gap than anything else.

Plus, maybe right after that good talk, your kid will text their best friend, “Cnt blv it – jst hd tlk w Mom n Dad n they r rilly kewl!”

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