There is fascinating research on how historical events shape the overall characteristics of each generation. For example, individuals in the Veterans generation (~1920s-1945) were shaped by World War II and the Great Depression. Because of these events, this generation tends to be stable, frugal and hard working. They tend to be more conforming and dislike change. Those born approximately between 1946 and 1964, the Baby Boomers, were shaped by Civil Rights and Vietnam, feminism and the Cold War. They thrive on change and tend to be optimistic. My generation, Gen X (~1965-1982), was influenced by corporate layoffs, working mothers and divorce. We learned to be adaptable, independent and cynical. Millennials (~1983-2000) were shaped by the 9/11 attacks, multiculturalism and the Internet. They are digital natives, who value diversity and morality.
But it is Gen Z who is the focus of 2021. The kids born after 2001 and whose generation is still growing. Why are they the focus? Because one of the most common questions in 2020 has been What about these kids? Their daily lives were altered in 2020. Questions regarding the “things that they missed” or how this year might detrimentally affect their futures circulated.
We already know some of the events which have impacted this generation: LGBTQIA+ rights, social media and climate change. Most researchers believe that because of these, Gen Z will be characterized by individuals who are realistic, inspired to improve the world and globally aware. As of this year, we can now add the pandemic to that list of influences. So what did the pandemic and all its factors do for Gen Z? These will likely be individuals who are highly resilient and adaptable. They will have less emphasis on traditional ceremonies or protocols, and instead find ways to celebrate, interact or work which truly meet their needs and wants. They will never again be limited by the concepts of physical boundaries, and they will be critical analyzers of information from media and “established” leaders. And when I think about this, I am amazed and hopeful for their generation. These characteristics, including those created due to the pandemic, are what will allow this generation of children and adolescents to take charge of their individual lives and make a difference in the world. They will be the leaders when many of us are older and I can only hope that most of us will be around to see the powerful impact this generation, born of struggle and crisis, will make. So while challenging in the moments of 2020, the pandemic made our kids strong and flexible, much like fire tempers steel. For that, we might find gratitude from 2020.
Just a little something for your insight. – Dr. Robin
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Lancaster, L. & Stillman, D. (2003). When Generations Collide. New York: Harper Business.
Robert, S. (1999). Generational differences make a difference. Business Insurance, 33 (27).