Do conversations with your offspring begin with a blank stare, as if they suddenly stopped understanding the English language?
This was the first clue something had changed in our house. I started getting drawn-out “ugggh…” noises, followed by eye rolls and lightning-fast departures — all before I could finish my latest tirade about grades, chores, sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll. In reality, all I wanted to know was what’s for dinner tonight.
“Siri, send new message: plain or pepperoni?”
Does all this sound familiar? Do your children seem distracted at the dinner table? After asking how their day was, does it take them minutes to even register you’ve spoken? Is their only sustained eye contact with a screen, and do their only substantive conversations occur in a virtual space or among their own species?
If so, be warned: You may have a Gen Zer living in your home.
Teenager, Trailblazer, or Someone From Another Planet?
Every generation has gone through this uneasy transition. One minute, you see a 10-year-old playing in the yard; the next thing you know, it’s eight years later, and he reappears as if he’s been on an arduous voyage across foreign lands. This begs the question: Why do children come out of this journey looking so fresh-faced and sparkly while we’re the ones showing signs of wear and tear?
As Gen Zers are looking at their phones, they’re actually forming bonds with people all over the world and embarking on creative projects through digital means. This is where, as parents, need to explore and familiarize ourselves with this global landscape they’re working in.
It’s natural for us to want our children to learn the same social skills that we learned growing up. Studies have shown that Gen Zers are highly competitive and motivated, yet they value their independence. We may sound like our parents when we regale them with stories of pay phones, vinyl records, and RadioShack, but we must understand that times have changed — and that’s kind of amazing.
We have to figure out how to help them find a healthy balance between family, community, and self. The question is: How do we get Gen Zers out of the house, and do we have to?
Visit Their World
There are new rules in this landscape, and sometimes, figuring them out together makes it easier to find that happy medium. Here’s how to get there:
1. Do you speak Instagram? Yes, I speak a little Snapchat.
You’ll never be able to truly connect with your child if you’re shying away from technology — it’s encoded in Gen Zers’ DNA. Get on board with tech by setting learning goals for yourself. Try to master an app every week. Take a coding course with your child or check out a how-to video on YouTube. Join the conversations your Gen Zers are having. As soon as you’re involved, you can start modeling behaviors and teaching them lessons in a language you both speak fluently.
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