The Difficulties of Generational Dialog

Generational dialog is so necessary but not always easy.
by Father Nicolás Schwizer | Source: Schoenstatt Press Office

A phrase from a contemporary writer, quite cynical but not less real, says: “When I meet two men, one old and one young, who walk together without having anything to say, I know they are father and son.” Generational dialog, which is so necessary, is not easy. Unfortunately, in most homes, parents and children don’t dialog nearly as often as they should. Numerous obstacles come between those who should be permanent talkers. Here is how to address them:

1) Turn off the TV.
In most households the time wasted on watching TV is out of control. When the members of the family are gathered in front of that apparatus, one could think they are united. Let us not fool ourselves! It is a false dialog which only “appears” to be dialog. Perhaps many words are said, but there is no exchange of profound ideas. Superficial dialog is an obstacle for profound dialog. In this sense, television is a terrible instrument of silence.

2) Work less.
Another exterior obstacle is work. How many of us allow ourselves to become fascinated by this new god, and, due to serving it, we throw our entire lives off balance! Behind it all, is the religion of “having”. There is an urge to have, not to be. Greed knows no limitation. The workaholic will always want to have more and more. The person trapped on this idolatry dedicates all the time possible to business, to professional concerns, and there is no time left to dedicate it to the education of the children. They think “Time is money and who is ready to lose money?”, but their mindset lead them to abandon those who basically would have the right to them and their lives: Their spouses and their children.

3) Schedule time for the family alone.
Social commitments can be overwhelming. Sometimes they are numerous and they take a lot of time. What is least important takes up all of the time. What should be considered important above all else -- quality time with the spouse and the education of the children -- becomes secondary and the parents allow others to take their place.

In addition to these exterior obstacles, there are other more serious internal problems. Many parents are not motivated to dialog with their children because they consider themselves incapable of it.

This lack of ability frequently comes from a bad conscience and from the fear of being unmasked. To accept dialog is to take off the mask. Unavoidably, the parents come to show their soul and they expose themselves to the implacable judgment of the child and especially of the adolescent. Because the youth forgives errors with difficulty, children severely criticize weaknesses and often focus on failures. Many parents are ashamed their own errors and faults. They don’t know how to handle themselves when they are face to face with their child. At the hour of truth, many flee in order to hide their shame and – as it is often said – they try to salvage their authority. But acting like this will only cause parents to lose their authority over their children. Here is a lesson to teach your children: None is perfect, including you, however, you are the parent and on that alone you have authority over them.

Some parents think they are not smart enough to talk to their children who seem more intellectually developed than them. As a result, these parents wrongly choose to silence. It is not uncommon for the youth of today to be more informed than adults. It would be easier to flee dialog and to isolate oneself even more in one’s own narrow world and thus not have to discover one’s own limitation. Challenge yourself and challenge your children by engaging on dialog. This is also a good exercise of humility.

Another notorious obstacle is discouragement. Parents are often hesitant in facing the aggressive attitude of adolescents. Aggressiveness is proper to teens and is in itself healthy, desirable and – I would say – indispensable for the growth of the personality. On the contrary, passive submission or surrender when facing adverse forces would be negative. Nevertheless, this aggressiveness in adolescents awakens very little sympathy in those around them.

Teens contradict everyone, demand without ceasing and with special satisfaction provoke parents who are the embodiment of authority. Nothing the parents do or say seem to matter to teenagers. They are always mistaking. Parents may be tempted to give up the battle and to let the children work things out by themselves. They will flee from dialog, judging it useless and superfluous and a wall of silence is raised between them…..

Questions for Reflection
1. Do I feel mirrored in one of the points?
2. How do I rate the dialog with my children?
3. What experience do I have in dialog with adolescents?

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Translation: Carlos Cantú
Edited by:

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