When a person hears the phrase “generation gap,” they may recall arguments with their parents over music being played over the radio or the style of clothing worn to school. However, the generation gap can also mean the divide between two generations or more within a family. While this term often refers to the difference in years between the two groups, there’s no denying that there is an increasing emotional gap between children and older adults. Today, pre-teens and even elementary aged kids are living and breathing technology, preferring to text rather than talk on the phone. It should be no surprise that a generation that is obsessed with tweeting, boy band One Direction and the latest viral videos, may have a hard time relating to a generation that values handwritten letters, Frank Sinatra and Citizen Kane. However, there are things you can do as a parent to bridge the gap so the two age-groups can benefit from one another.
By fostering relationships with grandparents, kids can learn to respect older adults in general. Furthermore, if grandma is a bit slow on her feet, your children can grow to be considerate of others. Not only will your younglings benefit from an increased support system, but their cultural appreciation will expand; grandpa can invigorate their imagination with tales of Neil Armstrong landing on the moon, introduce your children to clips of Charlie Chaplin and put the sweet songs of Etta James on the record player.
So what can you do as a parent to help bolster the bond between your offspring and your parents? Below are some tips to consider:
1. Give grandparents some insights into what your children are currently passionate about. Older adults may be at a loss about what topics to even bring up, so clueing them into the fact that your daughter has been reading the Hunger Games books or that your son recently has begun taking gymnastics class could be a great way to get the conversational ball rolling.
2. Find activities that both generations can enjoy. Depending on the interests of everyone involved, buying the supplies for a creative DIY project could allow them to jointly create a project; gardening can appeal to grandpa’s hobbies while the little ones will enjoy playing in the dirt; decorating snowmen in grandma’s backyard could lead to goofiness and laughter; board games like Sorry can get the entire family involved; and having your parents read your kids’ favorite books to them will undoubtedly forge an emotional tie.
3. Let the two groups hang out without you; spending time one-on-one with one another will prevent them from using you as a translator or middleman. To help them avoid awkward silences, perhaps suggest structure activities you think both may enjoy, like trips to the movies or science museum. Depending on your parents’ mobility and health, consider asking your parent to wear a medical alert device like this; therefore, if he or she falls, little ones won’t be put in the scary and pressure-filled position of having to retrieve help.
4. Little ones may not grasp that their older grandparents were once kids themselves. Encourage your parents to retell their favorite childhood memories and, if the grandparents aren’t capable of doing so, take it upon yourself to do so on their behalf. Such accounts will allow your children to view their grandparents as multifaceted people. Dated photographs are a particularly excellent tool.
It’s important that strong relationships between the two generations happen while the children are still relatively young. After all, with the increase in age comes an increase in distractions, whether it be school activities or a larger social circle. Set aside time to give your younglings and parents the gift of each other’s time, experience and love.