Editor’s Note: In this segment of Millennial Mindset, parents of millennials – children born between 1981 and 1996 – share parental perspectives about raising millennial children, their fears, and concerns.
While we were seated around the table in a local coffee shop, it was apparent that – although our backgrounds and personalities varied greatly – everyone was united by their feelings of fear, frustration, and responsibility when it came to raising millennial children. As a parent to iGen and Gen Alpha children, I took the opportunity to listen with an open mind. Causing great pause was the realization that the things they wish they had done differently mirror the lists of things I currently do for my children.
“If I could do away with video games, I would. I would make them all go away,” says Publisher Mitch Roberts. “When we were kids, we were outside all of the time; now, we cannot let our kids roam more than a few blocks away.” Kids are growing up in a closed society. We want to protect them and make them feel safe – maybe we are also trying to make ourselves feel safe. Perhaps they think they are entitled because they do not know any other way. They feel fragile and afraid.
“I think parents created this divide,” says Sean, a father to a 26-year-old daughter. “We not only want them to have more than we did, and we also want them to ‘keep up with the Joneses,’ so to speak. Especially with girls – girls can be brutal, and social media doesn’t help. Because we keep giving, the feeling of entitlement grows. We never made them work or save for anything, so they expect things like a new car in high school, college tuition, and help to pay rent.”
Parents are not entirely to blame for their millennial child’s financial distress. Today, young adults have a 50% chance of out-earning their parents as compared to those born in the 1940s who had a 90% chance of earning more than their parents. In a 2018 Country Financial report, 53% of Americans between the ages of 21 and 37 received some form of financial support from a parent/guardian, with 37% regularly receiving money every month. The most significant factors are the increased costs of housing, food, and college. As a result, many millennials experience feelings of inadequacy – often feeling deep down like they are still ‘children’ – and are thus often found delaying adulthood.
“When kids are in trouble nowadays, parents fly in to fix the problem. We don’t want them to feel like failures, so we don’t let them fail. We tend to throw money at their problems because that’s how we can easily make the problem go away,” shares Roberts. “When we were in our twenties and thirties, asking our parents for money would never have crossed our minds. Instead, we dealt with it. If we had to eat Top Ramen or potatoes for a couple of weeks, that’s what we did. If we had to sleep on someone’s couch for a month, that’s what we did. The millennial generation lacks long term budgeting and planning skills.”
The millennial generation was never taught to live alone. Schools have taken away once mandatory programs like home economics and auto shop. No one at the roundtable was aware of their child/ren taking a budgeting class or receiving an introduction to advanced financial concepts in high school. “They become quickly overwhelmed when they have to change a tire or the washer breaks,” comments Michelle – stepparent to a brother and sister both in their late twenties. “They have not been taught to handle these types of stresses. As parents, we just handled it all for them. We haven’t prepared them for life.”
“We also haven’t taught them about relationships. We have been too busy trying to keep our lives together,” comments Dawn – a single mom to a 30-year-old son and grandmother to a two-year-old granddaughter. While coming of age, millennial children were often ‘in charge’; they were the bosses of their parents – a control in which they prefer not to relinquish as they become parents. Millennial dads are also more active and engaged than dads of previous generations, which often creates a competitive environment inside the home. While some tout millennials for driving a declining divorce rate, many question whether a lack of personal and financial security or fear of perceived failure are factors in remaining in the relationship.
It seems we stereotype the millennial generation, which is not fair. Not everyone fits into the same mold. Why is it okay for us to pigeonhole an entire generation? Millennials bring a lot to the table. On average, they are more well-educated than previous generations and have a strong sense of civic duty. They are health-conscious and environmentally aware. Millennials are good global citizens welcoming diversity and demanding we make the world a more sustainable and equitable place. Where this generation may have had a rocky start, I have a feeling they are going to generate quite a bit of much needed and welcomed change.