You know how older generations like to remind the current generation how easy they have it? I remember my grandpa teasing me saying, “Oh, you’ve got it made. When I was your age I had to walk 5 miles to school in 20 below temps uphill…both ways.” Maybe he was exaggerating but he had a point: From generation to generation with medical and technological advances, life has been getting easier and easier, until now.
I believe this is the first generation that has it harder, not physically, but emotionally. They have it harder because technology has inadvertently disrupted the entire balance of the way families interact and connect with each other.
What gadgets does the typical teen have at his or her fingertips today? Computer, smart phone, iPad, iPod, gaming system, head phones, television with over 400 channels, etc..
Where does the typical kid keep all of this technology? In his bedroom.
Too many kids today get home from school and head for their rooms not just to play video games, but to update Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and Vine. Add to that the time they spend responding to endless texts and it’s amazing they find time for homework.
When parents get home from a long day at work, some of them cook dinner and do laundry and most of them are grateful the kids are occupied so they can catch up on their stuff, including Facebook, LinkedIn, the news, and one or two or three hours of television. Families are like ships passing in the night. Conversations go like this:
“How was your day?”
“Do you have any homework?”
“Okay, well get it done first.”
That kind of conversation tells us nothing. Wake up! We need to know what’s going on. There has never been a generation of youth with more voices, coming from more places, telling them how to look, how to act, how to think, how to feel, and what to believe. And when the messages they get are negative, when they’re struggling, when they’re bullied…those voices follow them home. They follow them into their rooms and eventually some of them commit suicide.
Many kids don’t understand that hardship won’t last forever. They don’t understand that they’re not the only one struggling. They feel like they’re climbing a mountain and from their limited perspective, it’s a mountain that’s steeper and higher than anyone else’s.
It’s our job to help them realize that they’re going to be okay, that climbing mountains is part of life. Maybe their mountain really is higher and steeper than anyone else’s…which would be totally unfair but that’s life. Life can be unfair. They also need to understand that the higher the mountain, the better the view from the top, so keep climbing.
You can help your children and grandchildren develop self-esteem and confidence, in spite of the pressures they face, by doing three things:
- Carve out family time: Dinner together a few times a week, family game night, hiking or camping or simply a walk around the block…without technology. Even quality car time helps.
- Ask open-ended questions every day (Questions that don’t have a “yes” or “no” answer) to help you gauge how your children are coping and what their views are on numerous issues. Over time your kids will get used to it…maybe even look forward to it. A few examples:
- What was the best part of your day?
- What was the worst part of your day?
- What do you wish went differently today?
- Who’s your favorite teacher? Why?
- Who’s the nicest kid in your school? Why?
- On a scale of 1-10, how happy are you? What would make you happier?
- Why do you think some kids get left out?
- What do you wish I’d do differently?
- Show them how much they’re loved: At the end of day, remind your children how special they are. Tell them how proud you are of them. Tell them why you think they’re special. Reinforce the good things they do.
With the distractions of technology it’s never been harder to be an involved parent but it’s also never been more important. If you fight for the attention of your children you can off-set other influences and help make their lives easier than any generation to date.