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Keeping up with Gen Z

Older black man and younger black woman read a book in a library. They are slightly out of focus.

By Sarabeth Castro

As a student and millennial mother of Gen Zs, I need to keep up with the way my children behave, communicate and deal with life in general. While there are some differences in how Millennials and Gen Zs view life, I can see that my kids are focused and determined on their future achievements like I am. Although, in some cases, they are glued to their cellphones, playing games like “Call of Duty” (or as they call it, “COD”) and “Genshin Impact” or watching videos on TikTok. 

I was listening to my two sons’ conversation one time, but I couldn’t seem to figure out what they were talking about. They mentioned words like “boujee” and “clout”; I got curious and intervened. They said that these are common words in their school: “Gen Z’s language.”  

According to Pew Research Center, these are the classifications of generations: 

  • Boomers: born from 1946 to1964
  • Gen X: born from 1965 to 1980
  • Millennials: born from 1981 to 1996
  • Gen Z: born from 1997 to 2012

Now, my worry is this: since face-to-face learning is starting to make a comeback and I might be older than my classmates, there could be a disconnect with how they express words versus the way I interpret them. “The struggle is real,” as they say. 

To prevent this, I first need to ensure that my vocabulary is large enough to understand my younger classmates. For parents or individuals who share the same sentiment, Google is our best friend–use it to translate unfamiliar slang so we can sustain conversations with our Gen Z friends and classmates. 

 For example, if they say “no cap,” (which means no lie), we are not lost and we can agree or disagree with what they say. In case you are working on a project with the younger generation, you can keep up when they use words that sound like Gen Z jargon to you. 

Another thing that you can do is constantly talk with any Gen Z people in your life, including your kids or classmates. One word a day will help. The other day my 10-year-old son was teaching me the word “sheesh,” which Gen Z has popularized as an expression of disbelief or amazement with a high-pitched and drawn-out vocalization. So, instead of saying “You are looking good today,” you can now say, “Sheeeeeeesh, you are looking good today!”

Language is colorful. It is constantly evolving. And whatever the language you are using at home with your family or outside the house with your classmates, it’s essential that you are open to learning and listening to communicate better with the younger generation and build strong relationships in all aspects of your life. 

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