"MOM," the text begins "Can you come get me???"
Knowing that my kid is wearing a boot from a recovering stress fracture and has been feeling pain, I drop what I'm doing at the computer and hustle out the door. I assume there is some urgency based on the multiple question marks.
That sounds pretty much like a cry for help, right?
Shame on me for not asking.
I drive over to the high school.
"I'm in the lot right now, usual spot, " I text.
"Practice doesn't get out for an hour."
And have I asked before – Give Me AT LEAST One Hour Before You Ask For A Ride.
Yes, I've said that...but when you ask "Can you come get me???" your words sound like you want a pickup right away...
Timing is off in other ways, too.
Often, I get a message like this: "I need a ride home from practice. It's over now. I need to go home and get ready and be dropped off at Taylor's by 5:45. Hurry."
What's the time? Oh, it's 5:30 when I get the text.
Today, the weather turned stormy. I notice this at 4 PM. I text, "Do you need a ride home since it's raining?"
Is practice ending early due to the weather? Do you need a pick up a regular time?
Any of this sounding familiar?
Even kids don't get communication to EACH OTHER right. It's not only a teen-to-parent phenomenon. A group that met for dinner decided to go to a different place for ice cream. They shared the name of the place, but not the location. Half the group went to one locale, and the rest went to another.
I have heard from those working with young people that these issues with communication are based partly on the age of the kids, but also on the fact that young people don't communicate in person very much.
For instance, I was given an example: Teens of 20 or 30 years ago would likely be standing in a group or calling each on a party line, speaking with each other to finalize plans. "Jen, let's meet at Todd's at 7:30 and then we'll go to Cheryl's." "Actually, Todd told me he has to work until 7:30 and needs time to get ready. Jen, why don't you and Cheryl come to my house around 7:30? We'll pick Todd up on the way."
What's happening here is a little back and forth conversation. Some interaction. Some planning. No assumptions.
Of course, any of us can make these mistakes from time to time. However, there truly ARE some issues with completeness in communication amongst millennials.
Just Google "Millennials Lack Communication Skills" and you'll see scores of magazine articles from Forbes to Monster to Inc. (speaking of Inc., check out this article: "4 Ways Millennials Can Improve Their Communication SkillsAuthentic conversations and collaboration are the keys to success in business.").
The article stresses weaknesses in these crucial areas: 1. Personal Connections 2. Active Listening Skills 3. Self-Awareness and 4. Accountability.
These are critical skills to hone for EVERYONE, not only millenials.
Without mastery of these critical communication areas, young people risk not developing the "soft skills" that make human communication essential.
Other areas where Millenials differ from their older counterparts include that they're too "digitally dependent" and they are non-confrontational (Forbes). These two areas combine in allowing someone to "hide" behind their screens instead of facing people and difficult circumstances.
For the majority of us, being unable to handle real-life scenarios means hindering everything from colleague interactions to responding to management or becoming management. Projects, deadlines, accountability and collaboration all depend on face-to-face interactions.
So how to honing these skills start? As early as preschool. And on through school and in activities, sports, family life, friendships, dating partners, etc.
As parents, we can encourage our young people to put down their phones and interact with us.
When we hear of problems with friends, we can certainly suggest "talking it out" rather than "texting it out." There is a critical difference to speaking to a person, not a screen. Human voice inflection, emotions, expressions (both facial and body) are essential to developing these aforementioned "soft skills."
With these soft skills comes the ability to empathize, collaborate and cooperate.
And maybe, just maybe, a young person can think: "I better tell Mom now what time I need to be picked up and where I'll be at. She needs to figure out her afternoon and how to fit in what I'm asking for."
Sigh. I can dream, right?
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