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Building Harmony Across Generations
By Tom Conway, Conway & Associates, LLC

“Oh, it is so frustrating talking to my dad. He never listens. He says he listens, but his actions speak louder than his words. He says he wants to hear my thoughts and opinions, but then he just goes off and does what he wants to do.”

The frustration came out of Jane’s mouth as she shared her last conversation with her dad. She was exasperated, feeling misunderstood and undervalued by her father.

Jane was not a 13-year-old child; she was the 26-year-old executive director of the family foundation and had worked diligently to establish fund-request protocols with the board’s approval. Then Dad stepped in. Someone had approached him—off-line—asking for a gift that the board had previously declined. Dad reversed the decision and approved the request over the phone. From Jane’s perspective, it was just one more example of disrespect.

This family experienced a generational disconnect, a failure to understand and appreciate differences of age or stage of life. This creates feelings of disrespect that lead to surface-level communication as relationships weaken or even fracture. The children feel their parents aren’t listening. The parents feel their kids are being rebellious. Both sides become frustrated and discouraged. Unaddressed, the family drifts into a growing generational disconnect.

What can we do to build harmony into our family and respect the generational differences? Seek out paths of active listening. Active listening is only possible through the lens of humility. Humility frees us to listen with an attitude of respect and an expectation to learn.

See how you are doing with active listening by pondering these questions:
1. How have you exhibited disrespect to the other generations in the family? How have you exhibited an attitude of humility?

2. Have your busyness and broken promises created a barrier in your relationship with anyone in the family? How might you ask forgiveness from that person?

3. What exercise can you think of that would bring your family together and allow each generation to connect better with the others?

From the book, unHeritage: 11 Pitfalls to Family Legacy and How to Avoid Them
By Royce Bervig. Senior Gift Planning Officer, Focus on the Family
FamilyWise exists to impart ideas for families to build harmony as they navigate the challenges of stewardship in their homes. Reaching harmony is an element of a thriving family. Have you ever arrived for an orchestra concert early enough to hear the various instruments warming up? As they tune, it’s anything but beautiful and it’s not harmonious.
Focus on the Family recently talked with Terry and Paula Parker about their stewardship adventure.
“Family beach trips were the highlight of our summers when thte children were little. With imagination, Terry would fill our family’s ‘pirate chest’ with small treasures and hide it in the sand. A map with clues would guide our three children to find the treasure. It was a delight to see them work together and make their discovery,” shared Paula. This summer memory is a metaphor for their family’s journey.
By Jeanne McMains, Vice President National Christian Foundation Serving Focus on the Family
A donor-advised fund (DAF) can be a useful tool to help you cultivate the principles we’ve learned in this FamilyWise newsletter edition. With a DAF, you can make charitable gifts to a family giving fund and then work with the next generation to determine what grants you would like to recommend be made from your DAF to your favorite charities.
“How can two walk together unless they agree?” Amos 3:3
Amos 3:3 echoes the importance of agreement as we each grow and guide our own family. Paula and Terry Parker tell us what they have learned in finding harmony in giving and parenting.