Intergenerational resilience is about empowering one another, younger and older. I have experienced four generations. When I was a little girl, my grandmother taught me how to peel potatoes and bake pies. Flash forward and my grandchildren teach me about Minecraft and give me a giggle.
Older and Younger
Here’s a little beef about the use of the word, seniors. Too often people over age 60 are lumped into a category perceived as indicating frail, forgetful, and decaying. With the oldest human being around age 115, the years span of seniors is 55 years. We do a disservice to older people to lump them into this narrow perspective.
Speaking of perspective here is two other biased assumptions. Older generations are sometimes accused of being too conservative and tech ignorant while sometimes younger generations are accused of being lazy and entitled. But this is nothing new.
The ancient philosopher, Socrates said, “The children now love luxury they have bad manners contempt for authority they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise children are now tyrants not the servants of their households. they no longer rise when elders enter the room.”
Then in 2020, journalist, Jill Fillipovic released her book, OK Boomer, Let’s Talk: How My Generation Got Left Behind with grumbles about how the Boomer generation (1946 – 1964) affected Millennials (1981 – 1996) including climate, finances, and healthcare.
All Ages Want Love
But what if we consider that all generations have more in common than not. Consider Robert Munch’s book, Love You Forever that brings tears to all ages. It begins with a mother holding her baby and singing, “I’ll love you forever. I’ll like you for always. As long as I’m living my baby you’ll be.”
She continues to sing to him as he matures. The son grows up, marries, and moves away. The mother sneaks into his house at night, picks him up and sings that song to him. Eventually the mother gets old and frail. The son comes into her bedroom, puts her in his arms and sings, “I’ll love you forever. I’ll like you for always. As long as I’m living my mother you’ll be.” This is but one example of generational resilience and love.
Our differences will not separate us if we keep sharing, listening, supporting, and loving one another.
The term intergenerational trauma refers to the trauma transferred or passed on from one generation to another. Think of the repercussions of the dreadful trauma that was inflicted on the Jewish people. I have seen clients who are still hoarding food, a coping strategy passed down from their grandmother. Then think about the injustices that have been handed down to our Indigenous people.
My own father came home from the World War II with undiagnosed post-traumatic stress disorder. He had an anger management issue and night terrors. Regrettably lack of anger management got passed down to me. My dear husband and children suffered. The number one gift I gave my family is healing my childhood trauma, which calmed those poor anger patterns.
If you are dealing with trauma from the previous generation, you might even refer to your family as toxic, I encourage you to consider a healing process.
One step to shift poor habits is to find comfort and support from older people who can provide wise counsel. Notice the people who have gentle eyes, attentive listening, and share insightful stories. In the book, Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah, Richard Bach wrote, “The bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but of respect and joy in each other’s life.”
Two wonderful women asked me to be their mother. Genet Mehari, born in Ethiopia calls me her Canadian Mom. Jannette, who had a troubled and troubling biological mother, asked me to play the role of fill-in mom. What a lovely consequence for developing emotional regulation, that is the ability to embrace and manage my emotions.
Definition of Intergenerational Resilience
Intergenerational resilience refers to the idea that positive self-identity can be transferred between generations.
I am blessed to have had a grandmother who loved reading, a mother who was interested in learning from me after I completed a master’s degree, a neighbour, Mrs. Fraser, who called my hubby and me, The Kids in our 50s and 60s, and grandchildren who want to show me their lessons.
Ways to Strengthen Generational Resilience
Respect Boundaries of All Generations
When parenting teens, I too often I invaded their space. I would want to know all their business and interfere. Particularly, families it’s easy to think that their business is ours. Our daughter Kelly has clarity when she says, “Mom and Dad, it’s none of your business.” The message is clear.
As a family leader, my grandmother made a firm boundary clear to us. Her home was smoking and alcohol free. Unless others are at risk of doing harm to themselves, others, or community, honour others’ limits by responding appropriately to their yes, I need to think about it or no.
Appreciate Older and Younger
Avoid taking one another for granted. Reciprocate most generations families that have healthy intergenerational resilience reciprocate with one another. Our grandson, Eric wanted me to go down the hill with him. I agreed if he agreed to help me get back up the hill. Win-win.
There are many ways that people from different generations support one another. When parents struggle with addictions or mental health issues, often grandparents, aunts and uncles often step in to care give. The older generations often
Provides child minding and other services. In return younger generations often do errands and help with home projects and technology.
How to Acknowledges Differences
To build generational resilience focus on similar and different values and motivations. Avoid making assumptions about older and younger people’s choices, decisions, and behavior, values. Get curious without invading, pushing, or controlling.
- ” Tell me. How did you make that decision?”
- What’s going on for you right.”
- “Will you tell me more about that?”
I regret not asking curiosity question of my father about his service in the World War II until he was in his late sixties, a couple of years before his death. It was would have save me significant emotional hurt to have sooner known what he endured.
Share and Learn
Find moments when you can share your skills, knowledge, and experience. We open to instructing and learning. Ask for advice. Young children often have creative and innovative perspectives and solutions. Older people typically have more experience and knowledge. Recently, our 8-year-old granddaughter taught me how to make slime.
Question: When younger people are ready to consider marriage, a career or becoming parents, do they typically ask older people for advice? Research indicates they don’t, that is not until they run into challenges. Then they tend to go to trusted elders for guidance.
Avoid Engaging in Generational Drama
In the 1970s, psychologist, Michael Karpman developed a system for catching conflicted communication. The Karpman Triangle can help you avoid or step out of conflicted interactions. Sometimes those conflicted conversations about who did the most chores, or who will inherit grandma’s money can last for weeks, months or years, even tearing generations apart. The first step to notice if you are speaking and acting like a bully blaming others, a rescuer fixing others or a victim with not options.
You can be the person to step out of the drama triangle. Don’t ask anybody else to change. That doesn’t work. It just fuels the fire. You don’t have control over other people but you have total control over yourself. If you can move from:
- blamer to challenger
- rescuer to coach and
- victim to survivor and thriver
Catching yourself and moving to honest yet kind communication will minimize or stop the drama.
Make Meaningful Connection
Take time to be present with yourself, to notice your thoughts, feelings, dreams, and goals. Doing so will help you better connect with others and their thoughts, feelings, dreams, and goals. When we truly connect with others, our body generates the love and trust hormone, oxytocin. Listen with soft eyes. Sit. Share a meal. Say, “Tell me more.” Ask curiosity questions such as, “Today, what was the:
- best thing that happened?
- worst thing that happened”
- funniest thing that happened?”
- most exciting thing you learned?
Use social media and technology to connect. Zoom can be used for visits and playing games. Facebook can be effectively used to express appreciation, encouragement, and emotional support. Texts and emails with used with care and emojis can do likewise.
Regardless of how you connect, just say it. Say, “I love you,” and “I feel loved.” However, of course, you need to be able to say these words authentically from your heart. Also, if appropriate, give and receive hugs. The family therapist, Virginia Satir once said, “We need 4 hugs a day for survival. We need 8 hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth.” Hugs are very effective in producing oxytocin.
Count your blessings, and say, “thank you” often, together. Celebrate ordinary and special events, together. Smile, laugh, learn, and play, together. Blessings to you as you contribute to generational resilience!
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Patricia Morgan MA CCC helps her readers, clients, and audiences lighten their load, brighten their outlook, and strengthen their resilience. To go from woe to WOW call 403.242.7796 or email a request.