Connectedness Across Generations
We’re in a series of posts about the 12 competencies of healthy families. Today we’ll discuss the third competency: Connectedness across generations with all members of the family.
In days gone by, the extended family was a source of support for the whole. Grandparents were an integral part of the lives of their adult children and their grandchildren. Parents could reach out to their parents for support, advice and help, and the young could count on the kind of care that only a grandparent can provide.
Staying connected across generations is becoming an increasingly rare phenomenon. In the 21st Century, it’s more typical for families to connect only ritually–on holidays and special occasions–without much meaningful contact in between.
Relocating for work is more common now that it used to be, and makes connecting across generations more difficult. In our global economy, it’s not uncommon for families to be separated from their extended family systems by oceans and continents. This makes alienation from important supports a real modern-day risk.
Technology is another challenge to maintaining connection across generations, in that it gives the sensation of connection without the substance. Text, email, and other forms of written communication strip essential elements of human connection from the message, such as tone and body language. One might think that technology could enrich communication across generations, but it tends to do the opposite. Texting is just no match for being fully physically and emotionally present with others.
Psychological hurts also contributes to disconnection across generations. When children grow up in emotionally and or physically impoverished environments, they tend to maintain limited meaningful contact with their families of origin. Instead, they cut-off, physically and/or emotionally, from earlier generations in an attempt to get what they need elsewhere. Their children, then, end up having little contact with previous generations, as well. (See post titled, “…Emotional Cutoff.”)
The best case scenario in such circumstances is for adult children to define themselves, work toward emotional maturity, and maintain meaningful contact across generations. This is difficult to do and can take years of purposeful work, but those who are able to pull it off don’t tend to regret doing so.
Meaningful extended family contact is increasingly rare, to be sure, but families who value this competency are intentional about making it happen. The foundation provided by such rootedness adds stability and solidity to the whole family system.
If you’re cutoff from your extended family, why not begin the process of bridging those gaps again? You may find yourself amazed by the stories you hear about days gone by, and it might help you understand yourself and other family members, too.