For the past few days in our house we hear our 8-year-old using this phrase often, ‘please don’t start the generation (gap) talk!’
My husband and I, having grown up in India in the 80s often tell him how we didn’t have unlimited choices for food, clothes, toys, entertainment, books, or opportunities to enroll in various activities. We tell him that his generation doesn’t value what they have, as little patience and easily gets bored. I have observed that today’s kids rarely get enthused, maybe because they have seen everything and own everything! Their threshold of boredom is low and bar to measure contentment too high. I understand it’s not the children’s fault.
In our house we have restrictions on screen time! We encourage free play and we enjoy reading, yet we go through such discussions. I am sure every generation went through these differences, but this time it is not the same! What concerns me is that today children are less fit, depression and suicide rates have begun to rise and diets aren’t nutritionally rich. According to Psychology Today, ‘Millennials report more stress than any other generation. Thirty-six percent reported increased stress in the past year, and college students specifically are more anxious than ever before.’ (https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-gen-y-guide/201509/why-millennials-are-so-stressed-and-what-do-about-it)
I wonder if the reasons can be the digital revolution; nuclear families; influx of structured activities; long working hours for parents; which has created a lack of community!
I am certainly not trying to convey that everything about the current time and generation is negative. There are many positives—today’s kids are exceptionally smart, they respect individual differences, there is less bullying, as a society we have made child safety a priority, the values of honesty and kindness in children are way on top of the list and parents are more involved in their kids’ lives than ever before! Still it feels there is something missing!
The question is how do we create a balance to give them a childhood which makes them emotionally and physically strong and happy? What is that I as a parent should do differently? The first step, I thought should be to jog my memory and list everything that comes to my mind instantly, which made my childhood memorable and gave me resilience to lead a physically and emotionally healthy life!
- Most of our evenings after school were spent outdoors, playing with neighborhood kids for hours. Our favorites included simple games such as hide & seek, hopscotch, cricket, tag, jump rope, and something similar to Blind Man’s Bluff. A mountain of sand near a construction site was prime property to build sand castles! We would immerse ourselves in play, eat at each other’s homes and only go back home when a parent or sibling came looking for us.
- We didn’t have a TV until I was in 4th grade and after that we had a 14” B&W TV with minimal programming. This made the one and only Sunday night movie special! A landline telephone was used for emergencies only!
- Eating out was rare and only occurred during special occasions such as birthdays, anniversaries or during visits from out-of-town guests.
- Our snacks were fruit, veggies, dry fruits and home-made snacks. Packaged food was rare.
- Summers were spent playing outdoors in hot weather, reading, eating homemade popsicles, playing cards and board games. Vacations for most part meant going to an uncle or aunt’s house in another city and spending time with cousins or having them come over. A summer treat was a cold watermelon on a hot evening.
- Chores were part of our daily routine without any reward. Our reward was family time after dinner spent talking, reading or playing an indoor game.
Looking back, I think the major differences are that we did not have digital sources of unlimited entertainment; there was more free play and social interaction; healthy food was a priority and material possessions were secondary to experiences. Maybe, I am biased and looking at my childhood with rose-tinted glasses! My goal is to not blame this generation, or prove that my times were great. Instead, self-reflect and consciously incorporate positive aspects from my past in raising my son, so he can have an emotionally and physically enriching life.