By definition, intergenerational relationships, as the name indicates, refers to the dynamics and the relationship between ageing parents, their adult children and grandchildren (and great-grandchildren when applicable). Over the years, we have been witness to many such happy and large families where three or even four generations of the family live a fulfilled and mutually beneficial life. In India, this was the norm, even a few years ago, until young adults started moving out for better education and job opportunities. However, it’s still a prevalent norm, one that is beneficial for all generations.
It is remarkable to observe the atmosphere of love, care and respect that are generated from intergenerational relationships. Ageing parents, armed with their experiences, offer a pragmatic and practical view of life and offer solutions to their adult children. The adult children, in turn, step in when the aging parents’ activities are restricted by health or mobility. The adult children are also the caregivers of their young children. Grandkids also greatly step into this dynamic by offering happiness and even help (especially in terms of technology) to their grandparents. Apart from the togetherness, security and happiness, intergenerational relationships have also proved to be beneficial for all the generations involved. While the older children of the aging parents benefit from their worldly wisdom and take more informed decisions, the younger grandchildren develop better social skills and are more stable, when they spend time with their grandparents. This also leads to the grandchildren performing better in school, being well-rounded humans and overall developing a sense of responsibility and respect towards elders. The aging parents not only lead better lives, owing to the help but also seem happier and less lonely, when in the company of younger children. However, there are some things that help foster these loving relationships.
Respect for all generations
Gone are the times of physical discipline and unquestioning authority of the elders in the family – however, this need not mean the total disregard for elders. On the contrary, developing a deep respect for all elders can help deepen the bond. Today’s parenting differs vastly from previous generations and even kids in recent times, have exhibited more individuality in recent times. It is important to ensure that everybody feels heard in the family, without disrespecting each other. Open communication to educate all family members about the family dynamic and defining everybody’s role is one step towards the right way to foster intergenerational relationships.
Life goals, education and careers
Younger adults have moved away from traditional careers where one person stayed at a job for generations. They are more experimental and ready to take risks for their career growth. In situations like these, rather than criticizing their career moves, it’s a good idea to have an open conversation about their goals and ambitions and use the elders’ wisdom to align and achieve the same. Likewise, children and teens, today are more open towards new and emerging courses of study, which may sometimes come across as risky or non-traditional. In these circumstances, the elders should understand the children and their passion and come to a mutually beneficial arrangement for everyone involved, without curbing the child’s natural skills.
The gap of technology
Technology, with all its boons, has proven to be a challenge and a gap in intergenerational relationships. While the younger children are tech-savvy and almost always on their phones, it can be frowned upon by elders and can come across as disrespectful. However, open communication and an effort on both sides to bridge the gap can help turn this around. It is not uncommon to see elderly grandparents play along with their grandkids when it comes to the trends of social media. In turn, younger adults can set aside time for the elders without any disturbance and also make time ensuring that they catch up with the technology of smartphones, tablets etc.
Harbouring individuality amidst intergenerational relationships
Needless to say, with each passing generation, children and young adults alike, are becoming their own person, or harbouring an individuality previously unseen and even discouraged in earlier generations. While one can delve into deep debates about the pros and cons of the same, a better solution lies in embracing changes and learning ways to encourage the same, without disrespecting or hurting anyone else. What may be creative freedom to the young, maybe too much freedom from the elders’ perspective. It’s important to find a middle ground where each individual feels heard and respected. Talking about things openly can help each generation understand the reasoning and thus coming to a more fruitful conclusion. And as we have seen, with a little love, care and respect, not only can the elders embrace it, but also be a part of it gladly.
So keeping these things in mind and with a little more mindfulness and respect towards all members, it’s easy to foster intergenerational relationships that provide happiness and other benefits for all members involved.