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Gen Z in Germany (2) – Family Life of the Youth

“I think [sharing] their experiences would help, like the experiences of the parents will help their children a lot to sit down together…just to talk about it and show the children what God’s Holy Word says.” – Anzhuo

The second part of our Gen Z in Germany series covers what family life looks like for Gen Z in this European country. If you’re wondering who Gen Z refers to, it’s the group of young people born roughly between 1997 and 2012. 

One characteristic of this generation includes being digital natives – the first generation to grow up consuming more media online than offline. They are also the most racially and ethnically diverse generation compared to generations before. Gen Z also values multiculturally inclusive communities and dialogue about different views.

We were able to interview two German-Chinese high school students: Youshi and Anzhuo. Youshi is 17 years old and lives with his mom. Sadly, his father passed away due to a heart issue when Youshi was only two years old. He shared, “I’m still very grateful that I have my mom with me.” 

Anzhuo is the only child of her parents. Her family immigrated from Beijing, China to Frankfurt, Germany when she was only 4 years old and Chinese was her first language. She recalls, “As a child, I didn’t really care where I was, as long as my parents were there with me, so it was okay.” 

Dr. Agnes asked them about their relationship with their parents compared to others around their same age: 

Youshi: I’m very thankful because I feel like my relationship with my mother is closer than, for example, the relationships of my friends with their mothers. Also she’s actively trying to talk with me. Sometimes it might be annoying but most of the time, it’s also what I need since I also don’t have any siblings…usually she’s the only part I can speak with when I’m at home. 
Anzhuo: In general, I think I have a good relationship with my parents in comparison with some friends in school. We talk about a lot and I can always talk to them. They are available to me all the time.

Dr. Agnes also asked them what kind of advice they would give parents in approaching their kids on different topics. Youshi shared his thoughts on how parents should approach the topic of dating.

Youshi: I think about dating, it’s important to know who your child is talking with, maybe a girl, but I think what’s important is not to reject a person directly. Like if your child likes someone, don’t just say oh, well we are not allowed to date right now or something similar. 

Youshi mentioned that it’s good for a parent to show understanding of his/her child’s feelings and their desire to spend more time with someone because they like them. He also mentioned that his mother realizes she cannot just prohibit him from liking someone in his heart. But she reasons with him, saying that focusing on academics now will allow you to have a future with someone you love. Once he is done with school and if he still has feelings for a girl, then maybe he can get to know her better and have a relationship together. Talking openly about these matters shows understanding instead of just rejecting the idea of dating. 

Anzhuo gave some helpful advice on how parents can approach the topic of their child spending too much time on their screens and online devices. 

Anzhuo: I would say that the parents should have started like right from the beginning when they see that their child is often on the phone or on the PC. They could have maybe set up a screen time or I mean they have to start from the beginning. 

When it’s like after five years, you can’t just stop, you can’t just tell your child that they have to stop because their academic is going down or something because it’s already a habit. If it’s already going down, you can’t just pull your child back. 

Anzhuo mentioned that her parents set good boundaries for her growing up in regard to electronic devices. They required PCs, smartphones, or iPads to be left in the dining room in the evenings to prevent her from making a habit of staying up late or isolating from other family members.

Youshi also gave some ideas on how parents can approach the issue of their kids staying up too late.

Youshi: Try to find compromises about staying up late. I think it’s good to tell them how important sleep is for your health. And try to let them know that it’s for their own sake to not stay up late. I think it’s also a problem when you play video games you also stay up late to play. But it’s important to give them the input that it’s about the child’s own health. And yes, I think to let them know how important sleep is, maybe talk about your own experiences. I think that it’s important they know how you were when you were a teenager.

Anzhuo and Youshi also shared their thoughts about how parents can encourage their children’s spiritual growth: 

Anzhuo: I think [sharing] their experiences would help, like the experiences of the parents will help their children a lot to sit down together…just to talk about it and show the children what God’s Holy Word says.

Youshi: I think it’s important to read the Bible together…and it’s also important to often ask your child what he thinks about the Bible or about what he believes in. Ask him about if he feels like he understands what he’s reading. And let them also know that you’re open to questions. 

Anzhuo and Youshi gave us some perspective into what family life is like for them as Chinese-German high school students and for their peers. They also shared their thoughts on how parents can approach topics that are common sources of tension between teenagers and parents today. They value their parents’ support, which helps them to face any difficulties in their life. They also appreciate their parents’ sharing of their own experiences growing up. 

It’s clear that more understanding and more time spent together as a family can help Gen Z grow holistically. Next, we will continue our Gen Z in Germany series by hearing from Anzhuo and Youshi about what it means to be a Christian in their part of the world. 

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