The first step to solving an issue is to acknowledge it. Hence, once we understand that the generation gap exists across all generations, it can be bridged. We have had it with our parents, our kids have it too and so will their kids. It cannot be avoided because society evolves across generations, becomes more open, cultures merge and adapt, and so on.
This issue is not just a household issue, in many ways, wherever generations coexist, the issue exists. For example, even in your workplace, you may have a different thought process about doing things and the young generation may differ. Your kids or grandkids may complain about ‘old’ bosses who refuse to change or adapt to new ways of doing things. So, it has to be acknowledged and bridged to make life easier all around.
The generation gap can be managed better so as not to completely spoil relationships. Both sides need to learn to be more open-minded. This can only happen with open discussions about differences. Stereotypical assumptions and perceptions need to be curbed and give way to open communication. Even though these may be difficult conversations, it helps a lot.
Listening to their ideas, or thoughts behind a certain decision, etc. can help understand them and their decisions better. At times, unconditional trust and love in one’s children and upbringing can also work wonders. Sometimes, a midway, a compromise from this side and one from that side, etc. helps. Agreeing to disagree is another way to manage generation gaps. It just means that even though we do not agree with it, we are ok with your decision. Understanding that society also evolved phenomenally with each generation helps in bridging the gap. Inclusiveness is the key; whether about ideas of marriage, sexuality, career, parenting, and more.
Persuade, not control
The tendency that Indian elders have to try and control every aspect of their children’s lives needs to go. The young need to be given their space to make their mistakes and allowed to take some risks. At times, when we are sure that they are headed for a disaster, we have to learn to persuade them rather than control them. Being assertive and not aggressive and talking it out with them may help to get them to see things your way. This attitude of letting go at times, and keeping the communication on can help bridge the generation gap wonderfully.
It helps if you practice wellness therapy at home to keep things cheerful. If you keep stress at bay, discuss your anxieties openly and get needed assurance, it is good overall. Find time to have some family activities that promote harmony. Involve grandchildren too as often, they help become the bridge as they seem to understand either side, nonjudgmentally.
Share family stories to keep the bonding and celebrate festivals together. Try to eat meals together and never discuss issues at the table. Those should be exclusive sessions without disturbance where either party can listen and talk. Practising wellness will give you the required patience to listen and understand others’ viewpoints.
Promote ‘I am ok-you are ok’ scenarios
An understanding that bridging the generation gap is not a tournament to be won helps a lot. There is no need to keep scores every time you give in or they do. It is just a healthy way of living life by trying to have conversations around creating ok-ok scenarios. There is no place for ego; this means that both sides are okay about doing things in a certain way as they can see why it helps. This is only possible through conversations with patience and at times. If all points of disagreement can be brought to the table for an ‘I am ok, you are ok’ discussion, harmony prevails, because there is an agreement.
The way forward
The young would need to learn to trust the old generation and their advice and not blanket ban their voices. A very good example of how people can try to blend in both ways is the Hollywood movie, The Intern. The movie poignantly showcases how a septuagenarian joins a young fashion start-up as an intern and blends in. It goes on to show how he evolves and how the young crowd around also learns a lot from him and his experience.
Often, families disintegrate only because people refuse to create the bridge that reduces the gap. Hence, it is important to remember that we all have a short life and relationships are important. If conversations can help save the same, then that should be kept up, at all costs. Hence, the generation gap should always be looked at as a challenge to be overcome and not as a sign of rebellion. Treat the generation gap as an obstacle to be overcome rather than as a battle to be won. That’s what will help keep families together in harmony.