Intergenerational Dialogue: Keeping the Communication Lines Open

By Audrey Lichter

Psychologists have sounded the alarm on falling fertility rates and aging family networks that is causing lost wisdom being passed down from extended family networks. There is a term for this phenomenon, called “beanpole families,” which is a “multi-generational family that is long and thin with few aunts, uncles and grandparents,” says John Carvel of The Guardian.

How does this affect families in particular? Surveys and articles point out that there is a strong mutual benefit between a grandparent and their grandchild learning from one another. For the many without their own grandchildren, nonprofit organizations have sprung to foster intergenerational bonding.

The pandemic has strained that grandparent and grandchild bond, due to social-distancing, and the communication lines being closed off. How best to reopen these lines? According to the GaGa Sisterhood, an organization devoted to engaging specifically grandmothers in multigenerational dialogue, asking open-ended questions and sharing your own experiences are some of the key ways to promote dialogue with younger generations.

For Jewish families in particular, the Jewish Grandparents Network recently conducted the Jewish Grandparent Survey which clearly showed that although most Jewish grandparents want their grandchildren to value being Jewish, Jewish grandparents differ in terms of their commitment to transmitting Jewish values, traditions and practices to their grandchildren.

Given the challenges of communication during COVID, the clear benefits of robust and deep intergenerational ties, and the importance of transmitting Judaism through the generations, there is a great need to help generations speak to each other within a Jewish context,

We are now called in the Jewish community to seize the moment and provide content to create Jewish curriculum custom-fitted for grandparents and grandchildren in order to strengthen these bonds and make Jewish wisdom flow between the two generations once again.

Audrey Lichter is Executive Director of Chai Mitzvah.

For more information on how Chai Mitzvah is meeting this challenge visit: Chai Mitzvah’s Jewish Grandparents and Beyond Curriculum

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