Younger folks need the wisdom of older folks. Older folks need the energy of younger folks.

It’s a beautiful thing when the old and the young work together–when there is enough love, respect, trust, and humility in the system.

But when disrespect rules the day, we get a generation gap rife with competition and hostility.

Extending cross-generational empathy and respect is hard work. Too often we’re too busy working at demanding respect that we’re failing to extend it. Here are some tips to put that energy to better use:

Young folks, the older people in your life usually have shortcuts that you know nothing about–that your peers know nothing about. Older folks can solve problems that you and your friends think are new and impossible. Some of your problems are new–most are not. Also, keep in mind that aging is a difficult process–certainly not for wimps. Do the work of imagining yourself as an older person because their trials will be yours one day. Imagine the day when they won’t be around to answer your questions. What should you be asking them today?

Older folks, if you’re frustrated and feeling cynical about “youth these days” you need to ask yourself if you are holding the next generation to an unjust standard. Are you idealizing a younger version of yourself–or of your entire generation–in such a way that it’s making you feel cynical? Are you unjustly asking why a twenty-year-old doesn’t have the wisdom that took you forty years of hard work and some failure to acquire? Now, if you are being fair, are are still struggling with cynicism, I’d encourage you to look for counterexamples to the negativity. There are beautiful, creative, hard-working people in the next generation. They are right under our noses. Let’s cheer them on.

Above all, listen. Cherish. And enjoy the fruit of your cooperation.