Generation Z or Zeners are the preteens and adolescents of today, born from the year 2000 onwards. In this article, author Mukta Basandani discusses the challenge of parenting zeners, sharing interesting and useful experiences of herself as a mother of two daughters.

One of the most precious moments in a couple’s life is when they become parents. The feeling is indescribable. However, as these toddlers grow up, parenting becomes an everyday challenge, some big ones, some smaller challenges. Raising generation Zeners is very different from how Generation Y was raised.

Overcoming the Digital-Gap

There was a time when “generation gap” was the most heard of challenges within large families. Today, it’s the “digital-gap” that has taken over.  Whatever time a family used to spend together has been offered to screens. Apps, videos and games are designed in a way that children are hooked and addicted to them. They spend more time on screens than with their parents and other family members. Screens have become the inevitable part of living for this generation. 

As a parent I realized this quite early and wanted to turn this around. Instead of children playing PUBG on phones and parents watching thrillers over NETFLIX, which might not be all that positive, how about watching a show together? A family that laughs together stay healthy and functional. After a hectic day at work all we need a little entertainment at the end of the day. Be it parents or children, everybody is living a stressful life. A good comedy show can be a good stressbuster for any family.

The Digital Alternative 

Zeners have short attention span. Due to the “TMI” (too much information) phenomenon, kids aren’t able to focus on one thing for too long. it’s a rare sight to see a kid with a story book in her hand, instead it’s the digital tablet that keep their hand busy and virtual characters who inhabitate their world. These gadgets need to be replaced with books, again. 

 But the question is, how do we bring back their interest in books? My daughter’s reading skills were very well developed while she was in kindergarten. I was invited to her school to do sessions for parents, on how to inculcate reading habits in kids. I spoke about the simple things I have been doing with my daughters. Give them the reading environment. We go to bookstore on every Sunday afternoon.  My younger one, who is just 2 years old, enjoys the visit to the bookstore. She sits by herself in the kids section and goes through all the picture books and sound books. This is exactly how my elder daughter developed interest in reading when she was of her age. And now she picks books written by authors like Enid Blyton.

As the old saying goes, practice what you preach. Hence it’s important for parents to do what they expect their kids to do – limit their own screen time! 

Old School Techniques Still Work

I also suggest parents to have a good collection of books at home, which include dictionaries and encyclopedias. Whenever my daughter is asked to search on a topic as a part of her homework, we use encyclopedias and dictionaries instead of Google. She enjoys this method and ends up reading more. Some parents may call this as an old school method, but this works wonders in the initial years of schooling. This is one way of keeping them away from screen time. Eventually they will need the latest information from the internet, but why not take the advantage of books and ditch the internet as much as possible.

Free Play Fuels Creativity

 As a parent, we have lots of expectations from our children, and we do everything possible to make them learn new things. We send kids to different activity classes from a very young age. Children are bound to attend those classes because parents want them to. While that is great, what we end up taking away from our kids is that unstructured time, to discover their own passion. Who knows what the child will be interested in learning if they had the time to? A child is expected to excel in something which he is been doing for the sake of doing because everyone else is doing. When he comes up with a different idea it is not accepted. When children do something unusual or out of the box, they are told to act their age, however as a parent what we end up doing is killing the child’s creativity. 

Let them discover their Passion

 My daughter took interest in art activities since she was 2 years old. I was keen on learning Mandala, a new art form which is a little complex art form and needs a lot of patience to learn it. I enrolled myself for a one-day workshop. But could not enroll my daughter for the same workshop because the workshop was for 12 years and above. She was just 4 years old at that time.  While I was doing my artwork, I just wanted her to observe. Watching me do the artwork, she developed interest on her own and one day she picked up the pencil and started doing the art form.  Within a few weeks, she started making beautiful pieces, one after another. Today my daughter Kamakshi holds a record in India Book Of Records for being ‘Youngest Mandala Artist’ and for having her solo exhibition at the age of 5. Why should parents go for the usual way always, and always expect their children to excel?  Every child has different interest and they should be allowed to pursue that! Just how we wouldn’t appreciate judgmental individuals in our lives, let’s give our kids that freedom to grow, and be themselves, because at the end, we don’t want our kids to be our clones, rather individuals who have their own unique attributes.

Keeping Failure as an Option

The young generation get anxiety attacks during their school and competitive examination. As parents we need to make them understand that failure doesn’t mean the end of the world. What matters is the courage to attempt and give it another shot, because not attempting is a bigger loss than failing. Every successful person faces failure. Speakers at TED TALK do not speak about their success always. They tell how they faced the failure and rose out of it. India’s late rocket scientist and ex-president Abdul Kalam had once beautifully abbreviated the word FAIL as ‘First Attempt in Learning’.

Undivided Time 

Spending peaceful and quality time with family has become another big challenge in today’s time. Every relationship needs good bonding time to understand each other.  Parents are burdened with their office work, deadlines, targets and children are equally facing the competition hence they are overscheduled with classes. They end up spending limited time with each other. Children don’t feel very comfortable talking to the parents, about their issues. The young generation trust the counselors more than their parents. With the rise in depression rates, therapists have become their new parents. However, parents must remember that therapist can only support their kids and not substitute for them and if parents give enough time to their kids, they may not need to visit the therapist or counsellor at all.

Zeners will bond with their parents if take interest in their child’s activities and daily routines. I make my daughter write down about her day in her diary. By reading that diary I know what excites her the most and what are her dislikes. From my childhood memories, I remember going for after dinner walks with my father. That was the time when my father spoke about his experiences, asked me about my routine life and we discussed about the career choices etc. When children get such undivided time from their parents, they feel secure, and they understand their parents are there for them regardless of their achievements or failures. Investing in undivided time for kids will not only benefit children but also make parenting easier no matter how big the challenge is. 

About the Author

Mukta Basandani is an artist and a mother of two. Her first big project was for a palace which was getting renovated in Gujarat, India. Most of her art projects have been on Sustainability. Her work has been featured in some of the renowned publications like The Times of India. She has been honoured by Women Achiever’s Award. 

Apart from being an artist, she had been appointed as parenting counsellor by maternity hospital, to give guidance to new moms, who go through postpartum depression. She also writes articles on raising Zeners, has been invited to speak at parenting workshops held in schools.