Prepping for Generation Alpha:
Having children is the ultimate act of Hope – an investment in the future of the world. And yet a recent study across 5 European countries revealed 60% to 80% of young people under 35 are either postponing parenthood or making firm decisions to remain child-free. There are many reasons for this astonishingly high percentage of elective childlessness, among them being the general political and economic uncertainty which has created a world hinged on instability.
Climate change and fears for how their futures will look is another major deciding factor not to have children. The parents and grandparents of Gen Y(1980 – 1995) and Gen Z (1996 – now) could expect a straight path from school to work to family life, a route that most would take for granted. Today, our generation of young people are digital Natives who conduct their personal and professional lives through technology and have an instant and much wider view of what is happening across the globe, a vantage point which was not available from the narrower worlds of previous generations, and many are choosing single status so that they can continue with their digital preoccupations and explore their own desires and experiences.
Today, having children is a choice, not an expectation and this means we have a collective responsibility for raising the next generation together. Described as Gen Alpha (born in 2010), they will need the expertise of all professionals from every sphere of life so that this generation will have the tools to navigate their digital world and the array of choices that accompany today’s existential thinking and the questions of identity which arise from it. Approval from social media platforms has become a priority for many of the younger generation, even more so than the approval of immediate family members. This is a radical departure from the thinking of the Baby Boomer generation (1946 – 1964) for whom face-to-face interactions were their only reality.
There is a growing arena of literature and online courses supporting the teaching of life skills for children. Moving on from the basic Home Economics which used to be taught in the 1950’s and 1960’s, an expansive new curriculum could be introduced to schools which examines the importance of personal responsibility. This would teach the skills of financial planning and an understanding of how to manage money, bills and banking. Household and family management, health and self-care, the building of confidence in communication and relationship skills are vital to the futures of these children and will make their transition from child to adult much easier. These are Life Skills which are essential to the creation of a fulfilled independence, and which may not always be exemplified by busy families who perhaps lack these skills themselves. Discussions around life choices such as a preference for single status, coupledom and whether to have children should be openly explored so that all young people can make informed judgements from debating the implications of those decisions on their futures. The encouragement of Openness of Thinking will ensure that the next generation will be equipped to make decisions which serve them well, and consequently, the world around them.
We await, with interest, how Generation Alpha will define themselves in another decade.
‘Each Generation imagines itself to be more intelligent than the one that went before it and wiser than the one that came after it.’
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