Is your child a member of “Generation Z, and if so what difference does it make to me as a parent desiring to communicate to him or her?
Understanding what is “normal for the current “Generation Z” can be difficult for many parents who still view their children’s lives through the lens of their own generation. This temporal gap in perspective can further complicate interpreting what behaviors are and aren’t appropriate for today’s teens. So how can parents know when to establish moral boundaries and where to release their children to embrace the behavioral strengths of their generation? A good start is to observe the unique behavioral strengths and weaknesses present in the current generations of both parents and teens.
Most parents of today’s teens were born in the mid-sixties to mid-seventies, which makes them members of “Generation X.” This generation values acknowledging others, showing respect, and being friendly and warm through face to face interactions. They also value history and knowledge with a desire for others to gain from what they know. These normal behaviors held by Generation X are extremely valuable and need to be imparted to today’s youth. As parents, we have a responsibility to impart the good we have learned to our children by creating a normal culture within our own homes.
Along with the good, Generation X also carries some negative normal traits, which should not be passed on. William J. Schroer refers to current parents of teens “as the ‘lost’ generation,” due to an over “exposure of daycare and divorce.” These factors have caused “X’ers” to be classified as being skeptical of change. Some parents view change as instability. So understandably, many parents have a difficult time raising children who live in a generation that thrives off of change. Teen’s today value change, which presents parents with the complicated task of deciding which behavioral changes are beneficial and which changes need to be corrected and redirected.
Many people have accused the current population of teens as being self-reliant, mistrusting, cynical and lazy, on top of having a skewed vision of sex. But what if instead of simply labeling the negative behavior norms of our teens, we began to understand the driving forces behind these characteristics in order to more effectively guide and instruct our children?
The youth of Generation Z do not like to be micromanaged. Their tendency to be self-reliant stems from a desire to think independently and creatively while exploring life. Instead of tightening the leash on our children when they begin testing their limits, we can run alongside of them to be there for encouragement and direction. Instead of growing frustrated with raising a “lazy” generation, we can find out what inspires and motivates our children to uncover the things for which they will work hard for. Instead of being disappointed with this generation’s unhealthy appetite for sexual entertainment, we can more intently monitor and guard our children from a society that overtly exposes them to sexual advertisements from a very early age.
Building a healthy idea of what is normal can become a team effort between parents and their children. Sharing the knowledge we have learned from past experiences with our children is very important, but it is also important to remember we are raising our children in an environment that differs greatly from that in which we grew up in. As our children are immersed in a culture that changes rapidly, we too have to shift and alter our parenting styles to effectively teach and communicate to our children in the new environment of their generation.
While attempting to communicate across generational gaps by establishing a new “normal” in your own household, it is important to remember at least fifty percent of good communication comes from being a good listener. Listening takes more time which we are not often willing to give, but being a good parent will always take more time than we think we have. If you are a parent you can find the time if you see the importance. It pays real dividends down the road. Today’s generation has been raised under the heavy influence of social media. One of the prevailing reasons for the massive success of social platforms such as Facebook and Twitter is the ability of teens to have their thoughts and opinions openly heard. While this idea may intimidate parents who grew up in a generation without cell phones or the internet, the widespread use of social media communication seen in today’s generation has made them more open to communicating even at the risk of confrontation.
When sharing opinions and thoughts with your children, some conversations might not always be calm and easy going, and that is not always a bad thing. Proverbs 27:17 says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” The important thing to remember is that as parents, if our first reaction of what we say or feel towards our children doesn’t come from a place of love, then we should re-evaluate what we are trying to communicate with them. Communicating love even in the most intense moments of building the new normal in our own homes will be the strongest key to bridging the generational gap between us and our children.