Once lumped in with the iconic Millennials, the Gen Z group has made a name for themselves and established unique characteristics and motivations. Though every child is different, and you can’t find a comprehensive how-to guide for interacting with an entire generation, there are some techniques to reach common ground with them.
Speak Their Language
Despite what you may have heard, you don’t have to catch on to every new word or tagline to relate to Gen Z kids (and adults), though it doesn’t hurt to learn some phrases and their history. It helps you better understand your child and their experiences. For example, you’ve likely heard or seen the term G.O.A.T., especially concerning athletes.
The G.O.A.T. meaning originally had a negative connotation. Now, it stands for The Greatest of All Time. People have used it to reference Muhammad Ali, Earl Manigault, and Michael Jordan. Its popularity is due to hip-hop music and culture. LL COOL J’s 2007 album, G.O.A.T. (Greatest of All Time), launched the practice of musicians asserting confidence and skill in their craft by designating themselves the greatest in the industry. LL COOL J described how he drew inspiration from athletes like Manigault and Ali and individuals like Ali’s wife, Lonnie, who incorporated G.O.A.T. Inc., when creating and naming the album.
More important than knowing each acronym, short-hand, or turn of phrase is discovering which issues matter to your Gen Z kids and learning what motivates them. Guardians and mentors should avoid imposing their goals on the children they look after and raise. Your circumstances, personality traits, and experiences shape your opinions and desires. You can teach your children what matters to you, but you must allow them to shape and follow their motivations. Speaking their language means listening to them and viewing things from their perspective.
Gen Zers, born between 1997 and 2012, comprise the largest and most ethnically diverse generation in American history. They’re also the people raised in the digital age. Even Gen Zers born before the explosive popularity of smartphones and streaming services can hardly remember when digital devices were not within reach.
Being born into the digital age, Gen Z has always had massive accessibility to information.
There are positive aspects to being so globally connected. However, constant exposure to tragedies besetting the world and severe comparison with others inspired by social media has often increased feelings of isolation and stress in Gen Zers. Many have and will experience anxiety and depression symptoms or receive diagnoses for these and other mental illnesses.
Older Gen Zers are not blind to mental health issues facing themselves and previous generations. They are actively reducing the stigma surrounding mental health by articulating their experiences and seeking the support they need. For Gen Zers who plan to become parents themselves, this quality will enable them to be emotionally healthy and available for their kids. As a parent or authority figure to Gen Z kids, you can also be a part of this positive trend. Establish an environment where kids feel comfortable and confident discussing their emotional needs. Research therapy and other treatment options.
Open dialogue is crucial to all interactions with Gen Z kids, including conversations about mental health. Effective communication is essential for any relationship to thrive. Sometimes, your child may not want to discuss certain topics or experiences with you. Let them know that it’s okay, but if they need or want support, point them to safe resources and options.
Involve the Kids
Setting boundaries has become a hot topic of conversation, largely thanks to social media. More and more people recognize the necessity of healthy boundaries in families and school systems to cultivate positive interactions with kids and promote autonomy and safety.
Guardians and authority figures should not assume sole responsibility for drawing boundaries and creating rules. Gen Z kids should be actively involved in this process. By implementing rules based on children’s needs and influenced by their desires, you create a fair environment for all. Children, teens, and adults alike are more apt to follow instructions and respect boundaries when they understand why they exist and see their benefits.
Kids also thrive when you give them responsibilities. Even completing simple tasks can be highly rewarding. Letting your children have responsibilities demonstrates your trust in them and inspires confidence in their skills.
Finally, spend time with them. You might be struggling to implement structured bonding time or keep their attention. Thankfully, you don’t have to rely on formal dinners around a dining room table. You can spend quality time with Gen Z kids by partaking in their interests. You can even capitalize on the benefits of digital devices. Quality time might look like playing video games together or Facetiming relatives.
Gen Z is not an unknown or unreachable generation. You can listen to them, research the topics they care about, and provide critical support. In doing so, you’ll be able to build healthy relationships with the Gen Z kids in your life.