Observations & meditations on modern life
The Generation Gap
The Generation Gap… This is something that comes up a lot in my practise, considering that a lot of my clients are kids who are considerably younger than me, with parents who are considerably older than me. What seems to have become a particular niche of mine is that I find myself bridging the generational gap here for both child and parent, because I think that the generational gap now between Gen-Z and and their parents is bigger than it ever has been before.
Kids are confused. Why? Because, as with many generations before them but even more so now, their world is a completely different colour to the one in which their parents grew up. From technology to LGBTQ+ rights to the Black Lives Matter movement to the environmental crisis, the world now is changing in more ways, more publicly, than ever before.
So where do I start with parents and kids? How do I unpack a child’s journey with me for their parents?
The first thing is to establish one absolutely crucial thing for parents: your kids are not small versions of you. They are not “more one parent than the other”. They are who they are. They’re a combination of two people genetically, that has resulted in a completely new human being. That needs to be respected. They can and should have different opinions to you. I’m not saying kids need to be rebellious and go against all that their parents know and stand for, but when I help create an environment in which kids can find their own voice and have it listened to and taken seriously, that’s when I see real progress.
It’s all too easy to sit back with age on your side and feel like the learning is “done”. Quite frankly, it’s terrifying to see how quickly people get there. Once university finishes and adulthood hits, it’s very easy to slip into a stupor of “normal life”. However, there’s a reason that I end up seeing parents as well and independently to their children: the reason is that they realise that the learning is far from done. In fact, the learning is ever-changing, and will never be “done”.
The unfamiliar is often dismissed as “millennial hype”. Millennials are becoming known as the generation of over-sensitive, over-concerned, treats-their-pets-as-their-children lot. But the fact of the matter is that all these movements and protests and parades are happening to create a more comfortable environment for generations to follow. They’re not just “youngsters being over sensitive”. Millennials aren’t “taking things too seriously”. Young adults now are screaming from the rooftops to be heard in the hopes that new generations will follow role models and the voices of those outside of the small bubble in which they live.
Gen-Z and subsequent generations are going to be the first who’s minds will be shaped by more voices than their parents and teachers. Parents and teachers will always be two of the most important roles in a child’s life, but now they have access to so much more. There are mentors, and role models, and inspirational figures, and teenage celebrities, and regular celebrities, and the kids of those celebrities, and all the kids at school, and their siblings, and their siblings’ friends. The list goes on. Your child follows them all on Instagram.
Yes, it can be a little overwhelming for kids and that’s where parents and teachers can help youngsters figure out how to find their voice, but gone are the days of being able to dictate a child’s beliefs. I’m afraid, parents, you just don’t have that ability anymore. Kids are no longer being raised in the image of their parents; it’s near to impossible to create a “mini-me” in a world in which there are so many voices to be heard. And to deny children the right to listen to what’s going on around them is just, in my books, unacceptable. (This does not mean expose them to violence and trigger-stack them to the hilt. This just means allow them to know what’s going on, and what the meaning of these movements are. Protecting your kids is important, but shielding from the world is not the same as protecting them from distressing news and images. If you struggle in this department, get advice or help or just talk it through with someone. It’s important).
We may not all accept or like the way in which some of these lessons are being taught and learned. Not everybody understands the value of protests. Not everybody agrees with the choice to protest violently. That’s ok. Just recognise that these things are important. Expression is important. Feeling heard is important.
When adults/parents dismiss movements such as Black Lives Matter because they don’t fully see the meaning behind it, it teaches their children that these issues don’t exist. Sadly, they do. If they didn’t, there would be no need for protests, arguments, heated debate, pain, or worry. All of these movements have meaning. Racial discrimination does still happen, a lot. The environmental crisis is very real. LGBTQ+ rights need to be fought for.
This is not oversensitivity. This is just rallying for movement. People are rallying for movement. The next generation, for the first time, have the choice to listen and form their own opinions using a huge variety of sources. That’s a beautiful thing. Encourage it, don’t take it away from them.
Kids will learn from their own surroundings and create their own generational views of right and wrong. These views have to be different to the generation that raises them, otherwise how is the world ever going to change?