It’s a tale as old as time. Older, more experienced generations are often quick to point out the differences–and more specifically, flaws–they see in younger generations.
“When I was that age, I knew what it meant to respect authority!”
After all, older folks have been around a lot longer than the youngins, and with experience comes wisdom, right? Yes, absolutely. I refuse to participate in generation bashing. Older generations have loads to offer the world, and we absolutely need their perspectives rooted in experience, history, and tradition.
Likewise, younger generations are a product of the world they were born into, and I have to believe that they are here to continue the work of building the road that carries us into the future.
They are here to strengthen us, fill in the gaps where we are lacking, adapt to the reality around them, and mend the cracks that we all have created. We must believe in them.
To examine the differences between generations is to be confronted with flaws: both theirs and ours. We’re all human. Sure, we might notice ways in which they fall short of our standard for doing things. But instead of going all “Kids these days…” about it, let’s be the next generation’s biggest fans. Just look at what Millennials and Gen Z have to offer!
They are open-minded.
Gone are the days of all things fitting neatly into a well-defined box with a clearly marked label. Millennials and Generation Z are able to accept nuance and be open to possibility in almost every aspect of life. From the definition of success or the timeline of starting a family, to norms about gender and conformity, this generation isn’t afraid to re-write the rules. What an asset to not be constrained by rigid black-and-white thinking!
They are inclusive.
These kids have grown up with diversity as the norm. As one of the most tolerant generations to date, they value bringing people together over competition and individualistic thinking. While we might label them as “easily offended” or “snowflakes”, in actuality they recognize when words are harmful and are willing to do the work to correct how we talk to and about each other. Rather than leave people out, Millennials and Gen Z welcome and amplify the voices of others.
They question everything. (And seek answers immediately)
The internet made massive changes in almost every facet of life from practical to theoretical, but we can’t ignore one of the most obvious benefits: quick, easy access to vast knowledge. Millennials and Gen Z aren’t going to settle for the status quo. They ask questions, they seek answers, and they know they have to use critical thinking for their sources. Expect them to think big and dream big.
They stay connected to their parents.
If a complaint about “helicopter parents” is on your tongue, hold that thought. It may be true that younger generations rely on their parents into adulthood more than past generations. But consider the corollary: the parent-child bond is remaining intact through one of the most challenging transitions in life–that of child to adult. How wonderful that our kids are able to trust and rely on safe adults during a period of turmoil and change!
They care about the earth.
While we’re arguing about which political party is at fault for the world going down in flames, the youngsters are rolling their eyes at our partisan bickering and calling the fire department. They know that the earth is our only option, and to take care of it is to ensure a healthier, happier future for all of us. They are early adopters of reusable, eco-friendly products, and they won’t hesitate to “vote with their money” when they disagree with harmful business practices.
They work smart.
The 9-5 grind just doesn’t always make sense when you’ve got 12 hours of daylight, high-speed internet at home, and other things deserving of attention. Millennials and Gen Z are helping us rethink how we work, when we work, and how to maximize not just productivity, but satisfaction and joy as well. If the job gets done, it gets done well, and employees are happier, maybe we can be flexible with some of the rules about when and how work gets accomplished. Side gigs, entrepreneurship, and working remotely are extremely common, and they’re allowing parents more flexibility as they are raising families.
They believe in balance.
Mental health is just as important to Millennials and Gen Z as physical health. They don’t buy in to the notion that their job is the end-all, be-all of success in life. Mindfulness, spirituality, community connectedness, family time, therapy, physical fitness, and leisure are all important aspects in a healthy life, and they won’t run themselves into the ground at work if it means neglecting all else. When things get rough, you can bet they’ll head to their therapist, parents, or friends to help them get back into a state of equilibrium.
Depression, suicide, sex, gender, politics, gun control, racism, and money are all topics that they’ve grown up hearing about and reading about. They haven’t been shielded from anything, and as a result, they don’t shy away from difficult conversations. Millennials and Gen Z will speak up for what they believe in, diving in to conversation around difficult topics. And they’ll raise their kids to do the same.
They value community.
Connection is key. They love social media, and want to share all aspects of their lives from the highs (life accomplishments) to the mundane (food pics) to the absolutely absurd (ridiculous photo filters). Criticize this practice all you want, but when it comes down to it, Millennials and Gen Z are smiling, laughing, and talking with people they love, and curating an incredible virtual memory book while they’re doing it.
Furthermore, they are able to connect with others over shared interests, creating virtual communities that span generations and borders of countries. New moms these days often rely on Facebook groups or internet communities to ask experienced moms for advice, support, and even entertainment during their midnight feeding sessions. How cool is that?!
We may wrinkle our noses at their phone etiquette, but they could teach us a thing or two about community, too.
We can all learn from each other. Together, we are so much better than when we’re apart.
Disclaimer: I’m a Millennial. I wrote this post while multi-tasking on two of my three part-time remote jobs and drinking a homemade chai with cream from a local dairy. You can find me on instagram at @liannacorn. Don’t forget to hit subscribe! (Kidding.)