Tuesday, March 21, 2023 | Sha'ban 28, 1444 H
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Mind the generation gap

‘People from different generations sometimes criticise each other’s opinions and way of life, let's get together and have mutual respect and support’

When teaching medical students I can’t help noticing the differences between their ways of doing things from how we used to do it back when I was a student a few years ago.

I often stop myself from saying “when I was a student we used to do so and so,” because I remember how I did not like it when my teachers said the same phrase.

I remember when I was a young doctor training in the UK I used to go to the hospital on Saturday morning to do my “on call duty” and leave on Monday morning to do a clinic at another hospital till 5 pm.

If my senior was “kind” he or she would let me leave at 3 pm otherwise I have to stay the full working day. This system was tiring and we often wonder if it made us “better doctors” or was it basically covering the work duty which allowed the hospital to save on employing less doctors.

This system was scrapped a few years later and doctors now are granted a day off after their 24 hours on call. Yet when it was first introduced we were ‘professionally jealous’ that we did not have the same privilege when we were in training.

It is funny how we grow up to be similar-to some extent-to those around us, being parents or teachers, basically any one we consider a father figure. The fact is that we often learn by observing what others do, not just what they tell us to do, this is how role models play a role in including others around them, but this is not completely a passive process. I mean we don’t just become sponge absorbing everything around us but we do make a choice on what to adopt.

This is how what is now called social influencers affect people's behaviour by simply triggering the person's “needs and desires ” , be it for being loved by others or considered “cool and savvy” or belonging to a group regardless of the values of that group. This is why people now “want” things more than they “need” them, and this is why some people are still unhappy despite being rich and living a life of luxury.

Experts in psychology and social science talk about the generation gap which exist in many cultures, where the older generation consider the younger generation to lack psychological strength, “a snow flake” that melt under the smallest amount of pressure. On the other hand the younger generation believe the elders to be “stubborn,” holding to old ideas and believes, sticking to others opinions rather than following their passion.

Such beliefs and attitudes towards the others are not helpful as they only create conflict and deprive each generation from learning and supporting the other. There are no doubts that the older generation had to some degree a tough life when education and other basic life needs were limited and only available for a small group of the society, namely those who had money while the rest of society lived on the basics, many were working for daily wages.

Some had to migrate to other countries looking for jobs so they could provide for their family, leaving their wives behind to bring up the children with little emotional support from the husband.

These difficulties may have made that generation “tough skin” or not in touch with their emotions, yet they have accumulated a good amount of experiences that can be useful for the younger generations to learn from.

So what can we do to narrow this generation gap? I personally believe we should start by respecting each other’s values and way of life and trying to be less judgmental, which is not always easy. Try to understand the other person's background and the life events they experienced and how that shaped their thoughts and attitude. Finally, remember to have “adult conversations” without rushing to humiliate the others or make them less respectful.

Dr Hamed al Sinawi

The writer is a senior consultant psychiatrist at SQU Hospital

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