Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Millennials ….are WE to blame?

I read an article recently on The Atlantic website that has to do with questions I have been asking myself lately in reference to my own issues as a parent, and in listening to other parents talk about what is going on with their adult kids.

Here is the link to that article:

We often hear stories of “millennials” and how unmotivated they are, how they are struggling in life, how they are depressed and unhappy, and we wonder WHY?  We blame video games, drugs, laziness, social media, teachers, and society, trying to find something to pin this on, and to possibly correct!

 But, is that really it?

If you go back and think about when our grandparents were children, they were going through the Great Depression and had to do everything they could help their family and to survive. They were expected to work, even if it meant they couldn’t finish school. After a while, schools changed their schedules to accommodate kids working on their family farms.  When they became parents, they wanted for their children what THEY didn’t have, an education! Their priority was their kids going to college, and becoming something other than general labor. They sacrificed and saved so they could get their kids a good education. Not all kids did that, though, some served in the military, which was also regarded as a very honorable path in life.
Their children, our parents, were mostly college educated. It was easy to go to college for an education in a chosen field, and then graduate and go right to work in that field.  People got married young, started their families in their 20’s, owned a home, took vacations, established communities, and raised their families.  It was expected that their children, us, would go to college and have the same life.  A lot of us did, but some just finished high school and went right to work.  Employment was different then, you could get a good job at 18, stay in that company for your entire career, build a great retirement, have medical insurance for your family and earn enough money to afford the American dream of home ownership and having a family.

In the 60’s and 70’s, life was changing.  The youth were rejecting the American Dream, rejecting war, rejecting rules in society, and proclaiming that we should all drop out, get high, and love who ever we want with no strings attached. Of course we didn’t all do that, but we saw it on the news, we listened to it in our music, and we experimented with it to see if it fit us. Most of us still wanted the American Dream, and we finished school, started our careers, bought our houses, and had our families. Some did not, or at least not as early as our parents did. But getting a divorce was more accepted and the divorce rate rose which created broken families and a whole new set of dynamics. Also, now BOTH parents had to work so kids were often in day care. And when the parents were home, they were so exhausted they plopped the kids in front of the TV or video games to keep them busy. Family life became more chaotic. Kids were acting out. Smoking, drinking and drugs started earlier in our kid’s lives. They developed a disregard for any authority.
We all wanted to know how to handle our kids, what was going on?  We turned to the experts!

In the 70’s and 80’s, there were so many books written on parenting, and we read them and tried to figure out how to be good parents. We were told to protect our children’s self-esteem!  We were told to praise them for everything they did. We were cautioned against spanking, that it would teach them to be violent. We worried about the food we fed them, their sleep habits, making sure they were busy all the time, and just making sure they had everything they needed.  If they were having trouble in school, we confronted teachers instead of our kids. If their sports teams lost, they still got trophies. If they got bullied, we took care of it. We pampered them, and we thought if we made them feel loved and protected, they would grow up to be strong responsible adults. Some of us really worked hard to be excellent parents. We developed close relationships, supported every endeavor they showed an interest in, built our world around our beloved child.
Then, the child starts making decisions we don’t like, and we are deeply disappointed, even to the point of anger. It’s because of our parental investment.  The higher the investment, the deeper the disappointment.

As a result, our millennials are not handling life well. They don’t seem to know how to cope with adversity, or even just reality of being on their own. So, they are unhappy, depressed and anxious. They seek careers that make them happy and fulfilled, they don’t want jobs where they just work for a paycheck. They refuse to do that!!

 Is it our fault? I kinda think so!

We didn’t let them learn how to cope with life, suffer losses, figure out how to deal with bullies, find out there is consequences for bad behavior at school and at home. WE protected them from everything!  They ruled the home and then they get to the real world and it’s not like that!
We don’t understand why they can’t just go out and get a job so they can pay their bills, and be an adult! But, getting employment really is different today than when we entered the workplace. There are very few jobs available, especially if you are just a high school graduate. And going to college rarely prepares you for gainful employment, even if you find a job in your field, there are lots of applicants.

We did too much for them. We basically handicapped them. We are still doing it, because we now feel like we are the reason they struggle.  We feel guilty because they are having a rough time, and we can’t stand that, so we help. We don’t realize it, but we are still protecting them from life! It makes us feel better, but it solves nothing.
Life is different now than when our grandparents were alive. Every generation parents differently.  We all do the best we can with what we know. But, maybe it’s time to sit with our millennials and talk to them about the mistakes we made, and are still making, and tell them we will treat them like adults from now on. We won’t try to protect them anymore. We will love them, and be happy for them, but they are in charge of their lives from this point on.

Of course, there are times when they really may need our help and support, but they need to ask for exactly what they need, and we need to make sure they really can’t attain it on their own before we step in.

This is all just my opinion and my experience; I am not an expert in anything! Please don’t substitute my judgement for yours.