We are all familiar with the millennials (Generation Y or Gen Y) and the good and not-so-good stories that come with them. But have you heard of centennials (Generation Z or Gen Z)? For those who are not familiar, they are the current generation of kids who have been exposed to the online world, social media, smartphones, and technology since birth. They are a completely different bunch of individuals whose characteristics have yet to be decoded completely by older generations. And that’s what makes raising them both a challenge and an opportunity. I have three Gen Z kids, so it’s three times the fun for me! 🙂
To be honest, it’s quite scary to be a parent these days. It’s like navigating through uncharted territory, isn’t it? It’s as if even the time-tested parenting styles and techniques are no longer applicable. If you’ve been following my blog, you’d know that I have written about some of my thoughts and experiences in raising my kids, particularly my eldest son who’s turning 13 next year. (Check out Children and the need for regulated gadgets use, My biggest fear as a parent, and Why are you so strict, mommy?)
I think the first big step to take is to accept the fact that their generation is not the same as ours, so we should not impose rules on them just because those were the same set our parents used to discipline us with. It would be a big mistake to expect them to behave the way we did as youngsters back then, and to do the things we used to when we were at their age. Of course, there are lessons and values in life that are ‘non-negotiables’, so to speak, which your kids – no matter what age they are and what generation they belong to – must learn and apply.
Realize, too, that some things might mean different for you as a parent and for them as centennials. Case in point: gadgets. For us, gadgets are tools we use to communicate or access work systems remotely. For Gen Z kids, however, gadgets are integral to their day-to-day living in a far bigger way. It is through their gadgets (or the social media platforms, games, and other apps in their gadgets) that they connect with their friends, express their creativity and interests through vlogs (video blogs), and even learn or receive instructions from their teachers.
Make an effort to understand them as an individual and as a member of their generation. My husband and I made it a point to know our kids’ friends and classmates (and their parents as well), participate in school activities, and take them to parties, basketball games, or play dates so we’ll have a better understanding of what, who, and how they are around other people.
More importantly, though, constantly communicate with your Gen Z kids, and when you do, use their language so they can better relate and respond to what you’re saying. Remember that communication involves a lot of listening as well, so make sure you really hear them out, even if sometimes you don’t have a clue. 🙂 My eldest son, for example, likes to talk about games, and since I’m not a gamer, I sometimes get lost in his animated stories. So what I did was to read up on the descriptions and basic rules of popular and new games – only those that I allow him to play and watch, by the way – so I can have a more meaningful back and forth with him the next time he decides to bring that up.
Take time to bond with them, and again, it should be through activities that they (not you) are interested in. Be a friend. Be their BEST friend.
True, parenting to Gen Z kids may not be the easiest thing in the world, but I believe that it puts us in a position to nurture such unique and talented individuals, and for that, we should be thankful. Our job now is to help them focus on what really matters most and weed out the numerous distractions surrounding them. Through proper guidance and constant encouragement from us, our centennials will surely grow up to be fine adults with endless possibilities ahead of them.