Several months ago I was sitting in a coffee shop jotting down some notes to share in a counseling session with a couple who was having some challenges with their young adult children. I misplaced the notes, but rediscovered them today in a folder on my desk. Perhaps they'll have some value to someone out there.
1. First, don't say, "When we raised kids, it was a lot harder than it is today. That's not very likely, and even if it were, young couples don't need our reminiscing. They do need our empathy and encouragement.
2. Don't let every conversation be a reminder for you to tell a story that tops theirs.
3. Don't always be talking about the good old days. To be candid, they don't care. And seriously, how does that help them now?
4. Don't give long dissertations about your favorite vacations, especially after they've just talked about a trip they took.
5. Don't lecture them about finances. If they don't ask your opinion, don't give it. (This one is really hard for me!)
6. The reason you may not understand their world is probably related to the fact that you seldom ask them to help you understand it. Learn the power of asking questions.
7. Don't be close minded. To them, everything isn't black or white just because you say it is.
8. Be humble about your knowledge. Unfortunately, pride and age aging are often inseparable. Be quick to admit how much you don't know.
9. Don't try to be cool. You might be surprised to learn that most young adults don't need you to be cool; they need you to be you. When someone much older than them tries too hard to be cool, they view that as insecurity, more than anything else. They feel more pity than respect.
10. Don't try to be someone's mom or dad unless they ask you to be.
11. Treat all younger women as daughters and all younger men as sons. Few things are more pathetic than an older man who flirts with a woman half his age, or an older woman who flirts with young men.
12. Don't assume younger adults want or need your advice. The reality is, they usually don't. That may be hard for you to believe, but it's true. Respect their ability to make they own decisions, even when they're not what you'd advise.
13. Be authentic. Young people can sniff out phoniness faster than than the speed of light.
14. You'll always build better relationships by listening, as opposed to lecturing.
15. Don't criticize their music. They like it whether or not you do, so what's the point?
16. Don't try to tell them repeatedly what you believe in terms of moral values. I promise you, they already know. They don't need you to rehearse it all over again. You don't need to be their personal Holy Spirit.
17. Don't treat them like they're still twelve years old. They're not.
18. Don't criticize the style of their clothes, hair, skin ink, etc. Their friends don't, so how does your criticism help?
19. Don't keep telling them they need to settle down and choose a career. They'll do that, in time, when they're ready, so save your breath.
20. Don't overreact to every "radical" thing they say. A month from now they'll probably be talking about something else.
21. Respect the fact that it's scary to grow up. It was for you too. Don't pretend otherwise.
Older adults and younger adults are kind of like porcupines trying to stay warm. We need each other, but then again, we needle each other.
Again, just some thoughts, for what they're worth. I've learned most of them the hard way, and some of them, I'm still learning.
By the way, if you're an older adult and you're not still learning, I encourage you to reverse course and get busy. At the coffee shop where I wrote this, was an 82 year-old-man. He always comes in on Thursdays, and he's always reading a new book. Apparently someone forget to tell him that he already knows everything. I'm glad. I hope I'm like him when I grow up.