Making Intergenerational Family Gatherings More Enjoyable During the Holidays

Many families are preparing to gather for holiday celebrations, looking forward to sharing their time and traditions once again. These gatherings may include family representing as many as five generations: Veterans, Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millennials, and more recently, Generation Z. While families appreciate being together, older, younger and middle generations may sometimes not feel they have much in common to talk about. There are ways to create understanding, break through intergenerational communication barriers and discover ways to relate more successfully, creating closer bonds and better times together.
A key to intergenerational success in the family is knowing that individuals born during the same general time span experienced significant life events that influenced their world view. A good place to start building rapport is considering the significant historical and social events that define each generation:
  • Veteran Generation – Born 1921-1940.  Great Depression,  World War II, Jazz
  • Baby Boomer Generation – Born 1941-1960.  Post War, Civil Rights, Rock and Roll
  • Generation X – Born 1961-1980. AIDS epidemic, fall of Berlin Wall, desire not to be defined, sometimes known as “MTV Generation”
  • Millennial Generation – Born 1981-2000. Social Media, September 11 attacks and wars that followed; said to feel “entitled”
  • Generation Z – Born 2001-2014. First generation born with the Internet, said to be most individualistic and technology-dependent generation, iGeneration

Being aware of these characteristics offers insight into some of the things each generation values, what interests them, what challenges they face, and more. It’s important, however, not to stereotype various generations’ characteristics, as not all people will necessarily represent those qualities. Giving thought to the life history and interests of others opens the opportunity to ask questions about their experiences, generating conversation that more family members can enjoy. Gen Xers or Millennials, for example, can ask Veterans about FDR, or Boomers about their impressions of the Vietnam War. Veterans can ask Millennials or Generation Z members to share their experience with social media and knowledge about technology.

It’s often older family members who feel most excluded, and research indicates that’s usually because of hearing or visual challenges, or less experience with technology. Reminding other family members to be sensitive and accommodating to those challenges can encourage more involvement and interaction on the part of older friends and relatives.

Holidays can be notorious for creating tension among families, and while some of it is attributable to generational differences, we’ve all experienced how it’s sometimes due to personality differences, past family patterns or hurts and other factors. Here are a few dos and don’ts for creating a more relaxed, positive experience and avoiding discomfort:</p


  • Focus on materialism
  • List, brag or compare
  • Share inappropriately
  • Break confidentiality, embarrassing others
  • Revisit unresolved conflict
  • Avoid playing games together


  • De-emphasize the materialistic aspect of the season
  • Talk about your thoughts and experiences in appropriate ways
  • Share about yourself and general information
  • Resolve to emphasize the positive
  • Suggest discussing past problems at a later date
  • Organize a time for everyone to participate in both a video game and a board game
Prior to upcoming holidays, parents can discuss with their children how to better understand and include their older relatives and likewise talk with grandparents or other older relatives about how to engage and show interest in the younger generations in their families. The result, hopefully, will be happy memories of your times together this holiday season and a sense of knowing and understanding each other better.
How do you make family gatherings more enjoyable during the holidays?
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