September is Intergeneration Month! We’re usually pretty good at spending time with our own peer groups. With our own age groups, we tend to feel like we have more in common. But Intergeneration Month is all about helping different age groups to get to know each other and build valuable relationships. Why does this matter? There are surprising benefits to having sincere friendships with different generations, for both you and your children. Let’s look at 3 ways to grow your intergenerational circle.
Do you and your kids tend to hang around only your own peer groups? It’s so easy to fall into that pattern. Of course we are naturally drawn to people who seem just like us. It’s always a challenge to branch out of our comfort zones to engage someone we normally wouldn’t interact with. And it can be even more of a challenge to continue through the awkwardness and push through to a comfortable place. But this is actually so worth doing. It’s worth teaching your kids how to do this as well. Here’s why.
Letting go of assumptions
There are so many stereotypes in our world. And unfortunately, we often see these stereotypes proving true. But could it be that they prove true because we are interpreting behavior through the lens of our stereotypes? While it’s true that stereotypes do come from somewhere, it’s more true that they are not helpful or fair. So let’s let go of our stereotypes. This month, let’s let go of our stereotypes about other generations. Let’s be willing to interact with each person as valuable individuals.
And wouldn’t we want to be given this courtesy as well? How encouraging is it to be heard and to have someone sincerely seek to know you? Let’s let go of our assumptions about people from a different generation from us. This is a great way to grow your intergenerational circle.
Learning and Understanding
We tend to view other generations as being so different from us that they are odd. We might see them as being out of touch with the way we see the world. This perspective causes us to avoid them or ignore them. But what if we tried to engage them? Some conversation could help us to get to know them and to see why they think the way that they do. The resulting understanding can be life-changing, helping us to engage everyone in a much healthier way.
This kind of understanding starts with our being open and open-minded. We need to go into these interactions with kindness and a willingness to see another perspective and try to understand where it came from.
Some tools to help
Now, this can be challenging, even difficult. So as we find ways to grow our intergenerational circle, let’s go into this with a plan, with some tools to help us. It can be helpful to have a few fun icebreaker types of conversations planned. Yes, it may sound silly, but they really can help to get a conversation going and to calm the people involved. And we don’t have to say, “I have an icebreaker.” We could bring it in at an awkward moment when we can’t think of anything to say. Maybe introduce it as, “I saw this funny question the other day. I wonder how you would answer this?” Use it as a conversation starter, and then give your personal response to the question or game too.
Another way to pass time with someone from another generation is to play a game. Bring an easy or silly game with you if you had time to plan for this interaction. Or learn a few on the spot games. There are games you can play on a scrap of paper using lines and dots. While you each place your next line or play your next card, it’s easy to either be quiet or to start chit-chatting. Either way, you’re giving space for comfort, whether you have something to say or not.
Increased ability to befriend anyone
Learning to engage someone in a different generation gives you a skill that you can use throughout your life. And it opens doors to friendships that are so valuable. It’s worth having friends outside of our own peer groups. It helps us to see the world from another angle, and it makes us smarter with a broader range of knowledge.
My kids have had opportunities to talk to people of all ages since they were very young, and now that they are teenagers, they can talk to anyone. I get feedback from older people all the time, stating how they enjoy talking to my kids. Of course, my children enjoy being in their own peer groups, but they also jump into conversations with other age groups. They are comfortable doing so too, much more comfortable than I am. And this challenges me to find ways to grow my intergenerational circle.
Take a step
Today, what can you do to grow your intergenerational circle? Maybe it’s just time to call a parent or grandparent. Perhaps you could look into the Big Brother or Big Sister program and befriend a young person. Children enjoy visiting retirement homes, or maybe you could find a little time to volunteer at one.
It’s also likely that you have opportunities to befriend someone from another generation in your everyday life. So who can you take a step toward as a way to grow your intergenerational circle this week?
We have some shows to help you and your kids talk about family members and people in your neighborhood in a non-judgmental or stereotypical way. We even have a show called Nice to Meet You, a great concept to teach our kids. You can find these in your My Signing Time digital subscription, and if you don’t have a subscription, you can try one out for free for 14 days!
So, how will you grow your intergenerational circle this month? Let us know!