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Gerardo Castillo Ceballos, Professor of the School of Education and Psychology of the University of Navarra

The "Snowflake" generation

Fri, 17 Aug 2018 09:29:00 +0000 Published in The Confidential

To understand today's adolescence, with its plurality of "generations," it is necessary to situate it in a new cultural and social context: that of postmodernity and globalization.

In the modern era, adolescents lived a transitional phase (passage from childhood to adulthood) with a predictable duration; however, with the advent of postmodernity, a variety of cases of extended or prolonged adolescence have emerged. People over 25 years of age continue to have an adolescent mentality.

 Postmodernity entailed a crisis of reason, which was replaced by passion and desire. Thus was born the so-called "new individualism", which was presented as a new lifestyle based on "the morality of tolerance": whatever I want to do (lying, for example) is good if I want to do it.

Globalization had effects very similar to those of postmodernism. Sociologist Anthony Gidenns argues that "in the age of globalization the stage of adolescence has lost its defining characteristic of transience and has taken the course of a prolonged social youth, its progress towards adulthood being postponed".

Voluntarily extended adolescence, for reasons of simple comfort, entails the continuity of dependence on the family and the indefinite postponement of the autonomy manager proper to adulthood. It also implies the invasion of the next stage, youth, which is no longer the age of the great ideals and the vital project , to adopt a hedonistic lifestyle. Thus a wise adage of Charles Claudel is forgotten: "Youth is not made for pleasure, but for heroism".

In this context, the generation of the Ninis (neither studying nor working) and generation X (in Spain, the Kronen generation) whose members live only to have fun.

Less well known is the snowflake generation, so called because its members are as fragile as snow, as well as hypersensitive. The term snowflake comes from the United States; it was used to designate young people of the 2010s who were not very resilient and very prone to taking offense for no reason. They suffer from what Lipovetsky calls a disturbing fragilization and emotional destabilization; they suffer from the tension and restlessness of living in a world that has dissociated itself from tradition and faces an uncertain future.

Adolescents of this generation are very vulnerable emotionally, to the point that they collapse in the face of any setback. Psychiatrist Lori Gottlieb states that they are indecisive and fearful; in a rigorous study she found that the problem stems from parents who are overly protective and attached to their children and do not give them the opportunity to face difficulties on their own and thus develop frustration tolerance and resilience. These parents made their children feel very "special" and "unique", instilling in them an exaggerated sense of "self" that exempted them from effort.

Barry Schwartz, a psychologist at Swartmore College in the USA, says that today's parents are afraid of their children's suffering. In order for them not to suffer, they overprotect and pamper them excessively. This creates the "spoiled child syndrome", with a very low frustration tolerance level, because they cannot tolerate denial or being contradicted.

Spoiled children grow up with false self-esteem. The lack of "training" in facing difficulties on their own makes them insecure and helpless. They are unable to adapt positively to adverse situations: they lack resilience, a term taken from the resistance of materials that bend without breaking to regain the original status or shape.

Resilience can be learned. To do so, it is advisable to cultivate an emotional intelligence skill called "self-regulation of emotions". When someone else's behavior bothers us, instead of "exploding" we should create a "constructive inner dialogue" based on reflection. For example: "I recognize that I am very sensitive; that person did not mean to upset me. Instead of getting angry, I'm going to be especially nice to her".

 Among the resources most recommended by resilience experts are the following:

 Value yourself realistically and see the positive side of each status. Resilient people are aware that most crises are temporary;

Set reasonable goals that do not exceed one's own capacity;

 Be proactive. Problems do not solve themselves; resilient people know this and that is why they face difficulties instead of hiding their heads under their wings.

I conclude by emphasizing that resilience is not only based on skills. It is, in addition and above all, the integrity beyond resistance; it is a quality that makes it possible to face adversity with confidence, serenity, strength and hope.