Over the next few months, millions of families across America will gather for the holidays. Everyone is wondering who will host and what will be on our menu. Respectfully, I’d like to suggest another important question: how can I bridge the gap that exists between the generations that will gather around my table this year? I invite you to ponder how to gracefully consider the icons and events that have uniquely shaped each of your relatives.
Many families are fortunate enough to have representation stretching from the Silent Generation all the way to Gen Z, but oftentimes the different contexts in which our personalities have developed lead to misunderstanding within families. This confusion can create feelings of irritability, frustration, loneliness, or rejection. If you find yourself experiencing these emotions while in a crowded room, please know that you are not alone. The problem is not with you, nor is it with your family members, the problem is long-standing; people are, in part, a product of the social context in which they have developed. When we consider the advancements of technology, industry, and art: how could we expect to feel understood by the people whose developmental world is so wildly different from our own? This kind of understanding is not automatic, but instead comes from a life lived with the intention of knowing the essence of another human being.
You may be asking, “How can I bring all the contrasting attitudes of my family members together in a way that feels harmonious and uplifting?” Here are three suggestions to help you generate a meaningful and memorable holiday season for everyone who attends your event:
Build insightful conversations amongst your family members. Avoid making comparisons or judgmental statements. Instead, ask questions that help members to discover what someone else’s life experience has been or is currently. Consider a game or scavenger hunt that may invite members to explore the different time periods that are represented within your unit. For example, place statements such as: “I was born in 1983; I still remember where I was standing when I received the news that JFK was shot; I got a cell phone for my 11th birthday,” on a grid. Challenge everyone to ask a family member to autograph their paper in the appropriate box. Then, come together and allow members to share a surprising fact they discovered while playing the game.
Invite the elderly to tell a story from the past and, if possible, show a photo or precious memento to help explain its importance. Invite your teenager to teach their grandparents a trendy word, demonstrate a current dance move, or teach a new use for the cell phone. Consider creating a matching game that would allow the young and old to connect musicians, athletes, or icons from long ago and today. This could be created digitally using internet images either beforehand or conjointly. A game like Scattergories might encourage discussion about famous people and well-known events across different time periods. Beat the Parents is another existing game that celebrates generational differences.
Incorporate fresh ideas into family traditions!
Ask what each member appreciates the most and then prioritize accordingly. Involve the children in the meal planning and the decorating. Consider finding a way to add one of your child’s favorite foods to the holiday menu even if it seems to clash with the traditional menu. Invite your imaginative teenager to create an addition to the family heirloom centerpiece. Welcome new friends as well as new ideas and keep flexible expectations as you plan.
|Generation Names||Range of Birth Years|
|Millennials (Gen Y)||1981-1996|
While I acknowledge that bringing multiple people with contrasting values, attitudes, and tastes together can be challenging, I hope that these three simple applications will help you craft an environment of unconditional love, genuine expression, and spoken empathy that is sure to enrich the holiday season.