Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Four gifts from five generations

One of my previous posts was focused on modern teenagers and technology whilst drawing some parallels between generations as well. Moving on from that I figured that this was an opportunity to put some thoughts down on paper about strengths of generational age groups as we go forward in the technological age that we are living in.
We all have something to offer and for each of us it is important that we embrace the strengths of our own and other age groups. The five very general age groups I am looking at are: preschoolers, primary (elementary) aged children, teenagers/adolescents, adults and senior citizens.
These are some ideas to start a conversation about what each generation can offer and they come from my experience. I am writing from the perspective of an adult, a mother and a teacher... you may see it very differently and that is fantastic, please feel free to share your thoughts so we can learn from each other.

I know being a mother of a preschooler I am reminded daily of how incredible the world is. When we go for a walk, we stop to marvel at tiny flowers or tall buildings, we don't rush. I will never forget watching my little boy learning to roll over, his determination through repeated failed attempts and his satisfaction when he mastered the skill just blew me away. When I feel like I am overwhelmed by all that needs to be done I find that he helps me to focus on what is important (usually him!) and reminds me of what being mindful is really about.

Strengths of our Preschoolers:
  • they are born into this age, it is the only world they know so the adults in their lives can give them the confidence to explore and learn alongside them as they discover the wonders of their world
  • they can show us about learning through failure and persistence
  • they can teach us about living in the moment 
  • they are one of the best representations of hope 

Primary (Elementary) School Children
I am a primary teacher by trade and have spent a lot of my adult life focused on the needs of this age group. As a general rule they are motivated learners. They come into our classrooms and want to please, they want to do well and we need to create risk-positive environments where mistakes are celebrated attempts on the way to success not just wrong or plain failures. There is opportunity to reinforce the values held by our communities. These children are more than capable of taking on responsibility and thrive from being trusted.

Strengths of  our Primary (Elementary) School Children:
  • adults in their lives can walk alongside them, offering guidance to them and learning from them
  • they are open to learning and we have the opportunity to reinforce positive/healthy mindsets  
  • they have a strong sense of fairness so can help adults in their life stay true to their values  
  • they have the potential to take positive action for their communities, especially when supported and trusted by adults in their lives 

As I spoke about in a previous post, this age group has enormous potential for impacting on our world. They have energy, enthusiasm and with encouragement can be incredibly creative. They are going through huge change (not only physiologically) and the support from positive friends, role models and adults in their lives can have a great impact on how well they negotiate all the changes they are faced with. They need to know that they have people in their corner whilst at the same time taking responsibility for their actions- positive and negative. They have a tendency to expand the possible potential benefits of a course of action and minimise the negative so need to have relationships with people who can help them unpack their choices and make more thoughtful decisions about the stuff that matters.

Strengths of our Teenagers/Adolescents:
  • they are able to engage with the world in a whole variety of ways 
  • they more likely to be daring, to take risks, and it is up to the adults and peers in their lives to help channel this enthusiasm towards healthy/responsible risks  
  • they see the world in really interesting ways- adults can learn so much from them if they are able to bridge the gap through respect and genuine interest
  • they have an innate desire to belong, creating and valuing opportunities to connect with others is important 

Adults are leaders within our nuclear families, our communities, and in the workforce (as a general rule). They can enable growth and change or block it, they can empower by responding positively to the needs of our children and youth. In our schools the adults are usually the decision makers and have the opportunity to be lead learners. Adults have an enormous responsibility to walk the talk and live their values, not only because it is the right thing to do but also because you never know who is watching and learning from what you do.

Strengths of our Adults:
  • they can share important values by living them, they can create an environment of acceptance for our young and old 
  • they are aware of the shifts and changes happening in our world and can help support others as they learn to cope with change 
  • they are in a great position to offer guidance to our young people to help them navigate their world 
  • they are often leaders of families and communities so are in a prime position to ensure that the voices of our youth and elders are heard 

Senior Citizens
In some western cultures, like in New Zealand, I don't think we always honour the gifts that our senior citizens offer us. Some of our elders have seen the best and worst of humanity over our recent history, they have seen enormous change, they know the stories of our past... they can teach us so much about where we come from so we can relate that to where we might be going. They are able to teach us about the values that are important to our communities.

Strengths of our Senior Citizens:
  • they have wisdom to share (so do our children) 
  • they have seen change and turmoil, they have a valuable perspective 
  • they can help us uphold important community/cultural values 
  • they can mentor our young by embracing their energy and enthusiasm and demonstrating a willingness to keep on learning 

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