Do You Have Generational Gaps in Life-Skills?

By: Jenny Baxter

Generational Gaps: Who would have thought what your grandparents didn’t know makes a difference to you?

The Problem

During a trip to England, I told a new friend my backstory – about my mother’s death when I was a teen. My friend’s mother is alive and well, and while quite moved, she couldn’t personally engage with it all. That was until I started telling her how I have life skill gaps.

Her story suddenly tumbled out when she said, “Oh, I’ve just realised. I have a gap too!”

It turns out my friend grew up in Yorkshire, “And everyone expects women from Yorkshire to cook very well,” she said. “So, people always say to me, ‘You must a be a great cook. You’re from Yorkshire!’

“But I tell them, that no, I’m not. I’m a terrible cook! I never learned.”

Don’t you know? Yorkshire Always Produces Great Cooks!

Then, she leaned a little closer. “I never learned to cook because my mother never learned. And she never learned because her mother died when she was 18!”

Yorkshire dales
The beautiful Yorkshire dales

It Goes Beyond just Life Skills Gaps

It seemed to me that until that moment, perhaps she hadn’t realised the huge impact her grandmother’s early death had made on her. And it was more than just about the cooking, although that was an important lack.

So, her big question was: if she missed out on learning to cook, what else had her mother failed to pass on? Because clearly, you don’t know what you don’t know. This is the problem with a generational gap.

Oh my goodness, what else don’t I know?

Right then, the penny dropped for me too. Suddenly this concept of having “life skill gaps” took another turn. It goes much further than your own parents failing to pass on info. This is something I see in my children too. Because I know there are things I never learned from my mother. She ran out of time. And so my children never learnt them from me.

For example, one thing I don’t know (or didn’t) is how to relate to adult children who have left home. Because it never happened to me. So it took me a long time to work out I was even missing that element. I just didn’t know.

The Fact is, Everyone has Generational Gaps

There are many reasons why you might have generational gaps. Some mothers, like mine, run out of time. Or, perhaps a grandmother was lost early, like my friend above. Or, for a myriad of reasons.

Because, no one knows every detail to prepare their children for adulthood.

Most of us do our very best to provide all the knowledge and wisdom we can, passing it on at the right time. But often you just don’t know what you don’t know. And often it’s because of generational gaps.

The Bible even suggests is a good idea, which means it doesn’t “just happen”. It’s something to think about, and consciously do: “Tell it to your children, and let your children tell it to their children, and their children to the next generation.”

“Tell it to your children,
    and let your children tell it to their children,
    and their children to the next generation.”

(Joel 1:3 NIV)

So, have a think about these common life skills, and see if you had (or still have) generational gaps:

  • Cleaning shoes
  • Basic cooking
  • Being friends with someone again after a fight
  • How to iron a shirt
  • How to hand-wash a wool garments
  • What happens at a funeral
  • Making a sponge cake
  • How to talk to strangers in a social context
  • Discipline of children
  • An concept of God
  • Forming a good marriage relationship
  • Having a relationship with adult children
  • Staying in touch with parent
  • Changing a car tyre.

Oh my goodness, the list can go on and on.

Some answers: What to do?

How do you prepare your kids for adulthood with all the life skills they need, when you don’t know what you don’t know? Sometimes these generational gaps are like blind spots which others can see you lack, while you may not even realise yourself!

  • Ask a Family Member. Sometimes other family members didn’t miss what you did. Often they are close enough to see the gaps, and gentle enough to hand over the info.
  • Ask a Friend. Friends are great. If you are missing something, in your set of skills or understanding of life, they can often shed light.
  • Write in your Journal. By regular journal writing, all sorts of problems – and answers – can pop up.
  • Prayer. As always, praying about it is a good plan. GOD knows everything about you, including what you don’t know. And he can be trusted to tell you what you need to know, when you need to know it.

“You have searched me, Lord,
    and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
    you perceive my thoughts from afar.”

(Psalm 139;1,2 NIV)

So do you have any life skills gaps that crossed generations?

Article supplied with thanks to Treasuring Mothers.

About the Author: Jenny Baxter is married with 5 children, and 3 adorable grandkids, Jenny is an accomplished writer, manager and Board Director with a heart for motherhood.