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Ideas on How to Talk to Teens and Emerging Adults

“When I was your age…”

I’m guessing all of us have said that to a teenager or emerging adult we know.  An article two days ago in
The Wall Street Journal suggests that might not be the best approach to take these days.

Here are some excerpts from the article that I found particularly interesting:

“Eighty-two percent of those ages 18 to 29 (and 79% of those 30 to 74) believe there is ‘a generation gap’ in America, according to a Pew Research Center poll last year. The gap was defined as ‘a major difference in the point of view of younger and older people today.’ That’s up from 60% of Americans in a similar poll in 1979, and it’s even higher than the 74% registered in a 1969 poll, taken at the height of the youth-rebellion movement. Back then, political and social issues created the gap between baby boomers and their parents.

Today’s youth cite generational differences in ‘perspective,’ ‘work ethic,’ and ‘technology’—which helps explain their reservations about their elders’ input.”

Here are some practical tips from teens and young adults on how to talk with them:

  • Question your assumptions:  What worked in your youth might have little relevance today.
  • Offer suggestions, not pronouncements:  Say, ‘you could,’ not ‘you should.’
  • Welcome a dialogue:  Listen, don’t lecture; you’ll learn things and give better advice.
  • Resist saying:  ‘When I was young…’
  • Don’t belittle technology:  If you’re critical of social media, young people may dismiss you as a dinosaur.
  • Accept your limitations:  The young understand the world today. Sometimes, the best advice is:  ‘Trust your instincts.’

At FYI, we are very committed to exploring intergenerational ministry and relationships; we continue to see its importance in our research.  This article reminds us all that we need to be aware of how we sound to the ears of young people.