Grandma Roberta and Gen Zer Bella with Kale from the garden they tend together

Families across America are witnessing snapshots of high school seniors graduating respectably this year without prom or public ceremonies. The media has focused on Generation Z and the impact this moment has on young adults abruptly finishing school with absent closure and the unknown of how and when college commences. 

In many of the current public issues, news reports have shown youth witnessing and responding to adversity, resulting in optimism that this upcoming generation can solve the collective problems existing in our world. This is a heavy burden. 

In my household, I live with a Gen Z high school graduate who listens to conflicted communication views. Personally, I have had the pleasure of observing my daughter gain greater vision during the past few months and have cultivated great hope and respect toward the upcoming generation with regard to their ability to exhibit empathy and resourcefulness.

Generation Z is the age group of children born after 1996. For a large majority, the current COVID-19 virus will become a defining moment in their formative years. The economic hardship unleashed will shape their worldview in the same way the Great Depression of the 1930s raised children to become frugal, hardworking adults. In my household, I also live with my mother, who was born in 1934, and she has been instrumental in helping me raise my daughter. Their time spent together sharing similarities of past and present are emblematic of a weaving of threads revealing the past lessons in both hardship and prosperity.

Even though Generation Z has never known a time absent from digital connection, there appears to be a shift away from the ‘Me’ culture with young people growing more aware of their environment and how their choices impact the world around them. 

During this time spent with my daughter in quarantine, I had the pleasure of witnessing her ingenuity through making daily nut milk, gardening and growing vegetables, making homemade butter, and creating a sourdough starter to make bread and crackers. I had no idea it is tradition to name a sourdough starter, as you would a pet, since it is alive and requires regular feedings. I have witnessed her awe and zeal during all of these experiences and I have learned so much in the process. 

These takeaways were confirmed while reading recent publications noting Gen Z’s difference from millennials. Gen Zers are a group of Earth stewards looking for societal cues, such as transparency and sustainability. It is a group coming of age in an era of disruption and upending of tradition. Perhaps the instability causes a yearning for stability and a reverence for rituals. Evidence of change can be witnessed by this generation’s recent interest in the protests around the world relative to human rights. This up-and-coming group tends to be highly accepting of diversity in racial and gender terms, caring for the planet and behaving with social responsibility. 

There is a collective hope with which we can provide Generation Z rather than the heavy burden of expectation. The next time we see one of these “Genstressed” individuals we can lessen our cynical perception of their relationship with their social devices and accentuate our positivity that they will utilize their connectivity and experience of this multifaceted challenging time to become curators and responsible citizens of the Earth. 

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