It seems to be a rite of passage for many teenagers to deny the existence of other generations.
Many teens want nothing to do with their parents, are embarrassed to be with their siblings (older or younger), are immune to the influence of teachers, and are willing to do almost anything to not be different than their peers. Those behaviors can serve a purpose in their development if they don’t become extreme or self-defeating, and if they ultimately lead to the confidence to make healthy personal decisions.
One of the concerns, however, is that some people become so comfortable in interacting only with their peer group that they forget that there are other generations who who can contribute to the richness of their lives – and whom they can also influence positively.
I’ve considered myself very fortunate that I’ve had the experience of having my parents and in-laws alive and in our lives well into the time when I was in middle age and our sons were old enough to know each of their grandparents well – enhancing the lives of three generations. I’m happy that my wife and I made a decision, while in our early 30’s, to move into a neighborhood whose population encompassed a full range of ages. We are grateful that our sons continue to regard us as an important part of their lives, and we are lucky that our grandchildren live less than an hour away.
Being involved in professional and other organizations has led to a range of friendships with older and younger people. And one of the reasons that so many of us who work in academic settings continue working beyond the normal retirement age is due to the rewards of being exposed to some of the brightest young people on the planet in a setting of mutual respect.
It’s comforting to stick to your peer group, and it has its purpose when you are a teen. But those who don’t reach out to other generations miss a lot. Now that I am a “senior citizen” I can see a real difference in health, vitality, and even the range of subject matter for discussion when I’m with peers who are actively involved with other generations and those who aren’t, especially if those inter-generational involvements go beyond members of the family.
Make it a habit to reach out to other generations. Just like with any healthy habit, the sooner you start the easier it will be to make it an ongoing part of you.