How Does the Generation Gap Affect the Family?

Understanding and accepting the differences between our children's world and our own will allow us to get closer to them, improve family communication, and reduce the generation gap.
How Does the Generation Gap Affect the Family?

Last update: 05 August, 2021

The bonds between parents and children can be the most enriching or the most devastating we experience in our lives. Increasingly, fathers and mothers are making great efforts to achieve appropriate, positive, and respectful parenting. However, in order to establish a good bond of any kind, communication’s a key element. And, when communicating with our children, we can encounter great difficulties. Many of them are due to the generation gap that affects families, and which we have to reduce.

With the arrival of adolescence, conflicts and misunderstandings intensify. However, these can begin much sooner. What happens is that the need for independence and “rebelliousness” of young people brings us face to face with problems that we may not have noticed before.

A father talking with his teenage daughter.

If we want to establish trusting and respectful relationships in the family, we need to understand the role of these differences between generations.

What’s the generation gap in the family?

The generation gap refers to that small or large gap that exists between one generation and another. This is in terms of values, ideals, beliefs, and objectives. In families, it manifests itself as the different principles or lifestyles that children have with respect to their parents, grandparents, or more adult relatives.

Some of the clearest and most significant examples are the existing differences regarding opinions toward and use of the Internet and social networks (the digital divide). In this regard, it’s common for grandchildren to teach their grandparents (and even their parents) how to handle new technologies. However, the gap goes far beyond this and produces significant daily problems and friction.

For example, parents may feel that the values of the current generation are wrong, that their hobbies are inappropriate, and, in general, that their way of looking at life isn’t the right one. It’s common to resist change and to think that the way we grew up and thought was clearly better.

This obviously creates a distance between parents and children. But, in addition, the communication codes of young people are new and different from those used by other generations. As a result, parents may not be able to understand and dialogue adequately with their children, especially when they’re teenagers.

How to bridge the generation gap?

Parents arguing with their teenage son who's sitting at his computer in his room with a bowl of snacks nearby.

Get to know their world

First of all, you need to take an interest in the world around your child and the world in which they live. Make sure you know their favorite movies, cartoons, or series. Keep up to date with the social networks that their friends use or that they ask you to use. Learn the words, abbreviations, and communication codes they use in their generation.

Even if, at first, you feel totally alien and disoriented, knowing their world will allow you to get to know your child better. You’ll be able to understand what they mean when they talk to you about something they like or worry about, and you’ll be able to share an enriching exchange.

Moreover, only from this position will you be able to judge whether something’s appropriate or not and set sensible limits. Forbidding and refusing something your child asks for without really knowing what it entails will only increase the distance between you.

Respect their generation

Differences between parents and children have always existed. We all tend to think that what’s familiar to us is better. However, accept that your children aren’t you and that their world today is different from the one you grew up in.

Therefore, respect those differences and be open to change. Accompany and advise them with respect for who they are and what they experience, without criticizing, judging, or belittling their lifestyle or their generation.

Encourage healthy communication

Finally, try to establish, from childhood, a bond of affection, respect, and trust with your children. Feeling appreciated and valued will encourage them to maintain fluid and healthy family communication.

And remember that you can all enrich one another. Each generation has something to contribute and you can complement each other. Love, respect, and communication are the best way to bridge the generation gap in the family.

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