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What's Lockdown Doing to the Kids?
Hello, good people! I hope you are doing well and adapting to whatever changes life has thrown at you lately. Today’s topic really could have become a decent-sized article, but I’m knee-deep in re-writing a couple of chapters for my book, so we'll just scratch the surface.
ONE FROM THE AGES
“Society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.”
- Greek Proverb
ONE FROM TODAY
Generational psychologist and Author of iGen, Dr. Jean Twenge, on how smartphones have radically shifted the way new generations think and act.
“I’ve been researching generational differences for 25 years, starting when I was a 22-year-old doctoral student in psychology. Typically, the characteristics that come to define a generation appear gradually, and along a continuum. Beliefs and behaviors that were already rising simply continue to do so. Millennials, for instance, are a highly individualistic generation, but individualism had been increasing since the Baby Boomers turned on, tuned in, and dropped out. I had grown accustomed to line graphs of trends that looked like modest hills and valleys….
Around 2012, I noticed abrupt shifts in teen behaviors and emotional states. The gentle slopes of the line graphs became steep mountains and sheer cliffs, and many of the distinctive characteristics of the Millennial generation began to disappear. In all my analyses of generational data—some reaching back to the 1930s—I had never seen anything like it.”
Source: Have Smartphones Ruined a Generation, by Jean Twenge
ONE FROM US
I have a confession. I’m a m\Millennial. Please don’t go. It isn’t what you think. Contrary to recent news reports, I don’t spend my free time looking for old people to cough on in supermarkets and throwing raging parties with drinking games and finger food platters. While I’m sure there are Millennials out there who are indifferent to lockdown guidelines, it is the centennials (also known as iGen) that are most prone to continuing their normal social behaviors.
These are all generalizations, of course, and I’m not here to rally the troops against iGen. In fact, I’m quite sympathetic to the 22-year-old single dude who has been asked to lock himself in his apartment. But, we should try to be accurate, especially given how different these two generations tend to be. Millennials were born between 1981 and 1996. iGen is the stark mutation, Dr. Jean Twenge is referring to in the above section. They came to adolescence as the smartphone became ubiquitous and, suddenly, that strong desire for independence, which had always characterized youth, was replaced by complacent disinterest.
These generational distinctions matter because they help us understand how external forces influence our youth. If we don’t take stock of these forces, then we are powerless against them.
For parents, teachers, coaches, and anyone concerned about the quality of our future generations, the COVID-19 lockdown is a transformative moment worth reflecting on. We’ve taken a generation who locks themselves in their room and scrolls their phone in every dull moment and we’ve locked them in their houses with parents who are scrambling to juggle a million tasks. Fuel to the fire.
And then there is the youngest generation - Generation Alpha. Born after 2012, they are the first generation wholly born in the 21st century. Their defining characteristics remain a mystery. Right now these kids have an overwhelming developmental need to climb, run, take risks, and play with other children. My three-year-old boy is a ball of energy who never stops talking and every time I turn around his 20-month-old sister has climbed onto another table. This is good, while often aggravating. But if I turn on Sesame Street, they will sit there without a sound for however long they are allowed. This is, of course, more tempting than ever given how challenging it is to get anything done right now. I’m afraid lockdown will exacerbate the negative trends we’ve already seen and embed unhealthy habits that come to define the Alphas.
Three take-home points and I’ll wrap-up:
We’re all doing what we have to do right now. Take care of yourself. An hour of television may give you the sanity you need to make the rest of the day much better for everyone. If you have young ones, let me also suggest a two-hour nap/independent playtime after lunch. Put the oxygen mask on yourself first. Your model will be the most influential thing you give your kids, anyway.
Take some time to write down all the new patterns, good and bad, that have developed in your home: waking up later, an evening walk, kids started eating meals while watching TV, etc. Habits that make your life easier, like junk food and screen time, have a way of sticking around. Bad COVID habits will become permanent if we don’t intentionally re-balance them.
Make a daily schedule and work to create boundaries. A consistent wake-up and pre-sleep routine go a long way. Don’t be afraid to communicate what is really important to you and work with your spouse to find time to focus. Divide and conquer. I’m telling you this has been my saving grace. I can plan my work for each day and in my kid-time, I have a list of activities to play or practice. I even have an “adult-free" time where they play, I read, and we worry about the mess later.
Thanks for reading! For more on habits and lifestyle design check out our free ebook: Making Changes that Stick and if you like this vein of thought, check out this piece from the archives 7 Rules for Empowered Antifragile Young Adults.
Life is too short to be normal,