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My Turn: Listen, young and old can learn from each other

I am old enough as a child of the ’70s to understand references about growing up poor and can remember similar experiences in my own family. I, too, sometimes lament that maybe I have done my kids a disservice by shielding them from some of the struggles of my childhood.

It is true that when you have done without, you learn to value what you have. But I learned something more important. I learned how to work when I needed something and that falling down wasn’t the problem; it was only a problem when you chose not to get up. Although I didn’t appreciate the struggles at the time I appreciate the strength I have as a result. I am a product of a generation in between those who struggled for everything and those who struggle for nothing.

Having said that, I have tremendous faith in my children and their generation. While there are invaluable lessons they can learn from older generations, they are making changes that will document their own place in history. Divorce rates have increased exponentially, due partly to a generation unwilling to fight through tough times, but also due to an unwillingness to accept mental or physical abuse. Older generations married for life, which sometimes resulted in children who became dysfunctional adults. It’s better to be divorced and show your children you can and will survive and flourish than alter their perspective of what relationships are about by exposing them to years of physical or emotional abuse for the sake of staying married. Insecurity can be generated when children helplessly watch something they feel is wrong and are powerless to stop it.

The world can be an unjust place. When I see the younger generation willing to speak out against that injustice I am hopeful for the future. Closing your eyes and hoping for the best won’t make it a better place. Social media have made it possible for many small voices to become one loud one. We can choose to move along with the tide or allow it to wash over us.

Younger generations embrace technology. Life doesn’t stand still and neither should the world we live in. If older generations want the younger ones to listen and learn from them they should be willing to do the same. Think back to how important you felt when someone older than you actually listened to what you had to say. I still remember those moments and how it made me feel. Some of those moments were the triggers that pushed me forward to do more. No one benefits from constantly being told they’re doing it wrong; seek out and appreciate the knowledge they have and they will fall over themselves to learn more.

If you put in real effort to share their interests and in the end decide your way is still better, you still developed a closer relationship.

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