A Fresh Look at Millennial Parents (Part 2)

What They Are Feeling and Needing in their Parenting

Posted Dec 14, 2016

In my previous article, I looked at the what the Zero to Three millennial parenting survey was telling us about how the largest group of Americans currently parenting their children is feeling and what it’s facing in the task of raising the next generation as well as it can, in a world that is quite different from the one in which it was raised. Worries about money, security, the enormity of the responsibility of raising children when they are growing so fast, and uncertainty about where to turn for help were on its list of concerns. Millennials did, however, appreciate the support they find among their peers and take a lot of pleasure in coming to understand who their child is in their life and family. Here are further insights and suggestions for how this group of parents can find support.

  • Compared to their parents, millennials feel proud of their liberal beliefs, increased tolerance, and educational achievements. They plan to have fewer children, have them later, and are more casual about marital commitments, as seen in their relatively high numbers of ‘unplanned cohabitations’ leading to parenting. They also see themselves as being more strongly committed to coparenting than their parents, at least ideologically.
  • Millennials are more likely than their parents to say their children are their best friends, and they want their children’s respect, not their fear, which is especially true among moms. Not surprisingly, moms in particular struggle with setting limits, especially when their children push their buttons and they fight to maintain emotional control. They are troubled by the conflicting advice about how to handle such moments, finding their beloved search engines to be less than helpful, despite their perpetual availability.
  • Millennials see themselves as more affectionate, engaged, present and playful than their parents. But they are troubled by how often they feel judged as flawed parents (especially fathers) in their communities, and in their marriages. Moms are less worried about being negatively judged by their partners.
  • Speaking of millennial dads, while moms and dads in the survey agreed that fathers do not get sufficient appreciation or support for their involvement (which they both see as much improved compared with their families of origin), three times more dads than moms said they’d like even more involvement. It appears that moms are still gatekeeping more than they think or admit, and it’s causing tension, especially given what they believe to be the benefits of good coparenting.

With all this in mind, here are a few things to consider.

  1. Think carefully about being your child’s best friend. You already have a few, as will they, but parents willing to do the challenging stuff are hard to come by and irreplaceable.
  2. Ease up on the gatekeeping, moms, and be ready with the praise. The return on investment, so to speak, is considerable.
  3. Use good websites for parenting advice as resources. Ask your pediatrician or trusted friends or check out my favorites: zerotothree.org, parents.com, AFWI.org (Alberta Family Wellness Initiative), sesame.org and aap.org (American Academy of Pediatrics).

Dr. Kyle Pruett is a Clinical Professor of Child Psychiatry at the Yale School of Medicine and Educational Advisory Board member for The Goddard School, an early childhood education franchise and leading preschool teaching learning through play (www.goddardschool.com).