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East or West, generation game can benefit all   2012-07-11 09:13:00

  In China, when a pregnancy is announced and a grandchild is on the way, it is customary for a reunion to occur between parents and children in anticipation of the arrival of the next generation. Sometimes families have been separated for more than a decade, with children attending university and then establishing themselves and their position in the workplace as adults. Once their children are married, however, many among the older generation then simply relax and wait for the announcement that a grandchild is imminent, which signals yet another shuffle of the family's domestic order.

  For example, often, women or couples who came from the countryside to a big city such as Beijing who then marry and settle in the city will suddenly move back to the countryside at some point during the grandchild's first year of life, remaining there until they can resume their role in the workplace. It is not uncommon for the infant or young toddler to remain in the countryside to be raised by the grandparents while the parent (or parents) returns to the city to continue their professional pursuits.

  Other times, the grandparents will make arrangements to move to the city to be the primary caregivers to their children's children while the parents continue their work virtually uninterrupted.

  In both situations, it is customary that they all live together.

  To Westerners, this assumed reunion seems shocking. As young adults, by the time we are on our own, married and expecting a child, we feel we have achieved a level of independence and autonomy from our parents which lies far along that linear scale measuring maturity and personal development. It is unfathomable to consider moving back in with our parents or, worse yet, having them move in with us. Such a shift in the established domestic balance seems counter-productive, even indicative of having slipped backwards, failed, or worse, that our own parents have deemed us incapable of raising children on our own.

  The West could learn a lot from the East in this regard, however, and it starts with the removal of that linear measuring stick for personal growth and maturation. In the East, resuming the connection between the generations is not only normal; it is considered the wisest and most logical step. More cyclical than linear, the family recovers cohesion and creates a larger whole.

  In the new domestic order which follows the birth of the third generation, the older generation is considered the head of the household. Their knowledge is then passed down for the second time, but unlike the first time, they are finally the primary caregivers for the next generation.

  This deference to the elders is the root of filial piety, a Confucian ideal which is still prevalent today. When children see their parents defer to the grandparents, they learn that the older generation is to be honored and respected. The grandparents also insist on this pecking order because, during their own stint as young parents, they too had to defer to their parents-the now great grandparents-regarding the raising of children and the dissemination of knowledge. In so doing, they taught their own children how to treat the older generations, paving the way for their own primacy in the family when their children had children.

source :     editor:: Diana
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