In this world of overexposure, constant stimulation and unlimited access, how do we raise happy and healthy children? How can we set healthy boundaries in their worlds, when so much of their world is outside of our reality?
Generation Alphas are the ones most of us are raising now. With birth years ranging from mid 2010’s to mid 2020’s, they are the children of us millennials and older GenZs. Developmentally speaking, these little ones face more challenges than any previous generation. It is estimated that by 2025, there will be more than 2 billion Alphas, the largest cohort of any generation in history. It is important for us, as parents of this group, to understand the struggles so we can effectively combat the stressors and raise effective children.
Alphas are the generation of exposure. This is the cohort of social media, TikTok, and cyberbullying. This is the age group of FOMO and Fortnite and constant access to communication without ever having to see a human being in real life. These kids have AirPods and AI and have days where they may talk to Siri and Alexa more than their parents. Never before has a generation been so shaped by technology, and never before have parents been required to navigate so many outside influences.
So how do we navigate? How do we keep our kids from worshiping at the alter of technology? How do we combat a culture and society where technology is integral to daily life?
Here are a few ideas:
1. Build a stable foundation: The single most common factor in resilient children is a stable and consistent relationship with at least one adult/caregiver. It makes sense, right? We want our children to be kind, respectful, stable adults, so we have to model kind, respectful, stable adulthood. Healthy parent/child relationship buffer children from adverse events and model effective coping skills which children can adopt and implement.
2. Let them fail: Resiliency is the toughness we want our kids to possess… the ability to get back up after being knocked down, the grit to continue when things get tough. Clinical psychologist Jordan Peterson says this in regards to letting children fail: “If you’re going to make your kids tough, which they better be if they’re going to survive in the world, you can’t interfere when they’re doing dangerous things carefully.” This is one of my favorite concepts to explore with parents in therapy. Many times our instinct as parents is to protect our children and try and make their life comfortable and easy. But what if we flip our perspective, and look at that buffering as a failure. If the goal of parenting is to raise them to leave us, how will they ever be ready to leave us and live independently if we never let them experience a challenge? If we never let them try something difficult? If we never let them walk through stressful situations or complicated relationships? Effective parenting is a balance of implementing healthy boundaries and allowing space for mistakes to be made.
“Through tablets and smartphones and gaming connections, there are entire worlds that our children inhabit where we parents never may step foot.”-Ally Bayard, LPC-S, CAS
3. Teach them how to ask for help: Learning coping skills for challenges or adverse events is important. With a full “toolbox” of strategies to manage various emotions, people can learn to bounce back from uncomfortable or upsetting events. This is what we often work on in counseling. We explore emotions, identify patterns, and learn coping skills to manage our feelings, decisions, and relationships. Alphas face a new challenge, though, of constant access. Constant access to information, to internet strangers, and to peers. Through tablets and smartphones and gaming connections, there are entire worlds that our children inhabit where we parents never may step foot. For this reason, it is important that we teach our children how to ask for help; how to invite us in to these worlds. Because while we may never “see” these online worlds they are a part of, the digital communities are real, as are the challenges our children experience in them.