ROOM WITH A VIEW
Modern societies have lost the art of marking
passages from childhood to adulthood. There used to be complex
and sometimes painful rituals alongside celebrations. They still
exist in places. People knew where they stood and there was mutual
Now we just have a gap. For some it's small
- for others it's a yawning abyss. But gaps can be good for fresh
perspectives. Some react so much they dig themselves in deep
and have a hard time getting out. Others just step across, taking
it all in their stride.
I had a problem with my dad. He probably
had a problem with me. I erected a huge wall in my heart which
made progress difficult. Over time, it dawned on me that my anger
and reactions were my responsibility, not his. Sure, he'd done
some mean things, but my response was my problem and was wearing
me down. One stormy night I plucked up the courage to talk to
him and even said sorry for my reactions. That wasn't condoning
what he had done, it was dealing with my stuff. Later, I was
conscious of the wall dissolving and a bridge forming.
It's what you do with your generation gaps
that matters, not whether they exist or not.
Jean Brown, Australia
WHEN I WAS YOUR AGE...
Does a certain hairstyle, dress, manner or
TV program that your children love annoy you? If so, welcome
to the generation gap.
We are all products of our formative years
and our habits reflect this. A generation gap ensues when we
transfer the values of one age to another set of circumstances.
Where there is no difference in values there is no generation
As a parent I have learnt the odd truth whispered
on the howling winds of family conflict.
1) It is a tremendous asset to be good friends.
This is preferably started early as it is hard to commence during
2) Communicate without too many negatives.
3) Nobody, young or old(er), likes being preached
to. Keep unsolicited advice to a minimum.
Generally, adults view events in the light
of experience. The young look forward; they do not want the fetters
of history. They try to stretch out that rare period of life
where they enjoy privilege without responsibility. They don't
want to shoulder the demands of adulthood before being assured
of their value.
My children seem to think that youth should
be "downhill, one ski". This can entail risk-taking
with alcohol, drugs and sex. Meanwhile, we adults see youth as
a preparation for more important issues, such as job-training,
long-term happiness, relationships and finding a purpose in life.
We cringe at the "damage" they expose themselves to.
Often, I have tried to impose my standards.
In retrospect, there were only a few times where it was important
to do so. When my children are asked to justify their position,
they do it quite well, sometimes painfully so. A tirade from
my 19 year old reminds me of the need for more openness and a
less rigid role. Learning can be fun but it is usually hard work!
I have had to learn to think quickly and seize the moment. Am
I prepared to modify my attitudes? Are there some things I still
feel are really important
Despite difficulties, my life has been enriched
by contact with the younger generation. By the time the grandchildren
arrive, we figure we should have just about got it right.
Footnote from a resident of a different generation:
1) There is no such thing as a generation
gap. There is only a difference in personalities. Some people
easily get along together and others not!
2) It is a myth that parents are responsible
for how their kids turn out. Your personality is an individual
thing; you acquire those things it fits!
Ana Bailey (and family), Australia
"GENERATION X" IN HONG KONG
In our Chinese tradition, family unity is
very important. Hong Kong has such 'hustle and bustle' that people
find it hard to strike a balance between work and family life.
Few parents have enough time for their children. Hong Kong's
uncertain political future makes them worry a lot, and their plans
and expectations for their children do not always facilitate mutual
The education system in Hong Kong is extremely
competitive. Inside many young people's hearts lie fears and
doubts. They aren't sure what they are chasing, or what their
future will be. As 1997 approaches, even kids say they are afraid
of political changes. They think that no-one understands them.
They seek excitement to deal with these fears.
There are families who have overcome the generation
gap. Some parents form co-operative groups with teachers to help
their children's studies (and get to know their kids better).
The Hong Kong Government and voluntary organisations arrange
activities, such as picnics or leisure classes, which parents
and children can enjoy together and thereby develop understanding.
We should not immediately put a negative label
on the generation gap. It is a reality. If you believe that
it can be overcome then the gap can disappear. Better communication
creates better relationships. The generation gap need not block
friendship and love.
Man-Yi 'Ari' Chow, Hong Kong
MY GENERATION ISN'T LOST
Being 19, I am part of what has been labelled
the "Lost Generation". I live happily at home and study
dance at college, having successfully completed high school.
I am not lost. Like many of my peers, I wonder about the future.
But for now, I would rather concentrate on the present. I have
seen the "Lost Generation" drunk, stoned, depressed
and disillusioned, but which generation has not been? I have
also seen the "Lost Generation" having fun - being happy,
responsible, successful and dedicated. We can and do enjoy our
youth. Our concerns are shared by many older people: employment,
environment, war, poverty etc... We should not waste our time
feeling sorry for ourselves. If we work and think for the present,
we can face the future with optimism, strength and the ability
to deal with whatever arises.
Suzy Edwards, Australia
Last year I went to an international conference
in Switzerland. The theme was "Past, Present, Future - a
shared responsibility". My daughter was involved and persuaded
me to attend.
Its purpose was to foster intergenerational
dialogue. My discussion group included people from Croatia, France,
the Netherlands, Belgium, the United Kingdom and Australia. Ages
ranged from 11 to 82 - truly a challenge to break down barriers.
In addition to main meetings and discussion
groups, there was ample time for participants to relax, mix and
talk informally. In these times, friendships were made. The
freshness and eagerness of youth blended with the experience of
the older generation to produce greater tolerance and understanding.
Surely we would like to see this in everyday life in all countries.
Prejudices and stereotypes hinder our personal
development and separate us from others. We need to look honestly
at ourselves and try to discard these faults. Then we can truly
communicate, regardless of age and background.
During the conference, an informal vote was
taken on the question, "Is there a generation gap?"
1/3 agreed, 1/3 disagreed and 1/3 were undecided.
I left feeling that we can bridge divides
in our families, societies and nations. No person, group or generation
has all the answers. Everyone has something to offer, but change
must begin with ME.
David Mattingley (age 72), Australia