Make no mistake, the Millennial Generation has unique markers setting its members apart from preceding gens like Gen X-ers or Boomers and younger gens like Gen Z-ers and Gen Alphas. As I write this, in January 2022, I can count three major “turns” the world has taken since I’ve been allowed to vote: 9/11 and the subsequent wars waged; the economic crash of 2008; the COVID-19 pandemic – three events that turned markets upside down, dwindled job opportunities, and turned the guarantees a college degree once promised into vague and murky possibilities. Along with these have been emotionally devastating events like the Columbine High School Massacre; Virginia Tech Massacre; Sandy Hook Massacre; Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School shooting; Aurora, CO Movie Theater Shooting and other events of public violence that have occurred more frequently over the years and that we’ve heard about more readily thanks to the pervasiveness of social media. Severe weather events signal that the planet is deteriorating, but nobody can have a meaningful conversation about any of it because most of the leaders we have representing us are engaged in political back and forths through their actions, their Tweets, and their votes.
If you’re a millennial parent and you’re not incarcerated, nor have you completely lost it yet, you deserve an award. Make no mistake, generations above us love to typecast us as lazy and undeserving, disrespectful, and ruining the world with our newfangled ideas. However, I believe Millennials have yet to truly make our mark in such a way that other generations are impacted in noticeable ways. We make noise, definitely. The term “work-life balance” has been popularized by us. But we’re still jumping through hoops to course-correct in response to faulty decisions that were set in motion long ago, back when we were babies, or in some cases, before we were even born. Our ability to innovate when served up such plummeting circumstances is astonishing and worthy of honor. But I’m not here for that.
I’m here to help fellow Millennial parents and parents-to-be stay a few steps ahead with these tricks I’ve learned through being a Millennial mom of two. Here are five essentials I recommend for all Millennial parents.
1. You and your partner need to pick a page and stay on it together.
This applies whether you are married, engaged, dating, or simply coparenting – the two of you must always be consistent. This is important for creating the type of attachment where your child recognizes that as their parents you are in control, but it’s also important for signaling to others – teachers, nannies, family, friends – what’s okay and what’s not for you and your child(ren).
2. Keep your mindset flexible and open.
This works well on two fronts because it allows you to stay adaptable and agile as an individual on this journey of raising your young ones, but a mindset like this is also more easily teachable to your kids if you’re practicing it. We got to see in 2020 why it’s a good idea to stay adaptable and agile as a parent; people who had never taught lessons in their lives were thrust into the role of facilitating learning from home amid a developing global pandemic. That’s a worst-case scenario if I ever did see one, but we can’t rule anything out at this point. Make sure you’re doing the deep work so you can help your kids cope when the zombies show up the same day a meteor is predicted to smash into us.
3. Learn and set your boundaries – the sooner, the better.
Admittedly, this one isn’t as easy as it sounds. It requires you to know yourself well enough to know what your truth is so that you can know what you’re basing your parenting style on so that you can know what things are okay and not okay for you and your family. This is things like knowing what religious practices you will uphold, if any. If none, it’s knowing how to approach the topic with people who invite you and your family to church. It’s establishing healthy relationship boundaries for your children and their other family members, such as your parents or siblings. It’s having the courage to sit in, but tolerate, the uncomfortable space that comes after you say, “No,” to something your mom wants or that your brother just insists will be excellent for you all.
Why boundaries? Because now, more than ever in my lifetime, people have little to no respect for boundaries. We are not courteous, respectful people – we’re nosy, intrusive people. Most people today don’t know how to argue without turning things personal, they don’t know it’s rude to ask intrusive questions and demand answers from someone even when they don’t want to share, and we’ve gotten into the habit of having to know everyone’s political affiliation and religious beliefs to share space or time with them. In short: when historians reflect, this will be the period when manners went extinct. The solution I propose is to get to know yourself and your boundaries so that you can remain secure when confronted with a challenge to those beliefs and ideals – it’s happening more often lately, and you aren’t a bad parent for showing your children the value of knowing how to communicate clearly, critically think, and think for themselves.
4. Create a network of babysitters who are not family members.
Somewhat related to the last two tips, we’re seeing more and more rupturing of families as hostile communication pervades and emotional intelligence wanes, so I recommend getting to know people outside of your family circle for childcare needs. We’d all like to believe a major family rift can’t happen to us, but it can happen to anyone. If nothing else, for the sake of introducing your children to different faces, I recommend seeking out the responsible teenagers in your neighborhood and their families to create a connection. You’ll be creating a job for a young person, and it may come in handy in case mom or sis can’t watch the kids for you.
5. Keep a balance between digital and analog activities.
One of the biggest advantages Millennial parents have is that we are old enough to remember what life was like before the Internet and computers were everywhere, but we’re young enough to see the value in having a social media presence and staying up to date on developments in tech. This makes Millennials poised to revive many older forms of entertainment with their children. Remember Jenga? Crazy 8’s? The Goosebumps Series? Hangman? We didn’t need batteries or screens for any of it, and they were fun parts of our childhood. Similarly, there’s nothing wrong with showing kids the many uses of smartphones, or how the Internet can teach you the Fancy Like dance. I think teaching kids to value analog activities like hiking, reading a book, playing an instrument, or dancing can help them learn valuable coping strategies that aren’t just scrolling social media or hunting for validation through likes and views. We need young people to derive traits like confidence, patience, problem solving, and empathy from growing their individual talents and skills, an appreciation for nature, and an ability to disconnect and settle oneself when overstimulated.
Of course, none of what I’ve written here is a guide in how to coach your child to a perfect SAT score, nor are these the cheat codes for how to make your kid the most successful in their class, but that’s not the point. The point is raising responsible humans who can lead, build, invent, and create in the world that’s coming after us. No pushovers, no assholes, just reasonable, logical adults of all different backgrounds. One can hope, anyway.