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Chris Fane's Student Ministry News

A youth ministry blog consisting of a collection of articles and notes related to
student / youth ministry. Gathered by Chris Fane of egadideas.com

Gen X parents sharing more with kids


GARFIELD HEIGHTS, Ohio (AP) — Mike and Kameron Bednarz often head to the neighborhood skateboard park after school, doing ollies and other tricks well past dusk.

The father and son are best buddies. They share other hobbies — snowboarding, guitar playing and competing for hours at video games such as "The Legend of Zelda" for Nintendo GameCube — a game that father Mike Bednarz played on the original Nintendo when he was a kid. The new version is "much more detailed and interactive," Bednarz says.

Corporate consultants, marketers and generational experts say relationships like the Bednarz' is something they often observe: Youngish parents (Mike Bednarz is 32) share more interests with their children than they once did with their folks.

These are 30- and early 40-something moms and dads who are just as likely to be punk rock or hip-hop fans as their children. These are parents who can't wait for the next Harry Potter.

Yvette Obias of suburban Cleveland is teaching her 9-year-old daughter, Acelyn, how to surf, a sport she's been passionate about for years. Their common interests don't end there, said the 35-year-old single mom, who grew up as a punk-rock skater.

"We have the same type of music taste. Our clothes are the same. I'll find something cute and trendy and she'll want to buy it," Obias says. "Growing up with my parents, I never had that, music-wise or clothes-wise."

Kameron Bednarz's dad blends in fairly well with the young skate park denizens in this Cleveland suburb, with shoes the color of St. Patrick's Day and an Enjoi skateboard, an image of Kiss' Gene Simmons on the bottom worn out from countless rail slides. Only his receding hairline gives him away.

Eight-year-old Kameron says it's pretty cool to have a dad who can tear up a skate park.

"Pretty much, he's better than me," Kameron admits. "He started when he was 10, so I will be better than him soon."

Technology is another big bond between today's kids and their Generation X parents.

"The shared experiences between parent and child are shifting. Instead of fathers teaching their sons how to play sports or use tools, now they've got video games," said Chuck Underwood, founder of The Generational Imperative Inc., a Cincinnati-based consulting firm whose clients include Procter & Gamble Co. and Time Warner.

Alisa Clamen, 41, of Montreal, says she could never relate to her mother's music, artists like jazzman Benny Goodman. But the MTV culture that shaped her teen years isn't all that different from what her kids — ages 18, 11 and 9 — are into. And like them, she enjoys her iPod.

Clamen didn't watch television with her parents as a kid, and although her tastes may differ somewhat from her children, they have found common ground with American Idol. "I pulled them into it," she says. "It was a fun family thing to do."

People who study generational differences say many Gen Xers want a closer relationship with their kids than what they experienced — they're less interested in climbing to the top of the corporate ladder if it means giving up family time. Gen Xers matured at a time when the divorce rate was soaring and working parents were away from their children for more hours than any prior generation.

"On the whole, they're correcting for this. They're not going to allow their own children to be left alone," says Bill Strauss, a generational expert and co-author of Millennials and the Pop Culture.

Says Obias: "I don't want my relationship with my daughter to be the kind of relationship I had with my parents."

But even the Gen X parents who think they're hip could soon find themselves as out of touch as their parents were. Some Gen Xers don't get into text messaging, for instance, while it's second nature for a lot of young people. "It's a completely different language," says Kathleen Gasperini, senior vice president at Label Networks, a Los Angeles youth culture marketing research company, whose clients include Apple Computer, Vans shoes and Pepsi.

Musically, some parents might have grown up on punk, but won't be able to relate to the many derivatives it's spawning.

"There'll come a time when they look at their 14-year-old and say, 'I have no idea who you are,'" Gasperini said.

Bednarz is hoping that day doesn't come.

"I'll still probably be the hippest dad around because I skate and bike," Bednarz says. "I'm hoping when he gets older we'll still skate together."

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