Understanding Your Millennial

the beatles tame impala

Not so different after all: Much like the corresponding generations themselves, the Beatles and millennial-era band Tame Impala have more in common than one might think. 

In my last post, I argued that the “failure to launch” epidemic was not to be blamed on parents. There are so many young people finding themselves in a prolonged adolescence that can be best explained by cultural and generational shifts. Parents could not be prepared for these large scale trends, and they are often left wondering why they are so different from their children. To be certain, this isn’t the first time this has happened. The baby boomers, the generation of the Beatles and Kerouac, the post WWII generation lauded for their contributions to civil rights and the counterculture of the 1960’s, were also dubbed the “me” generation by their depression-era parents for their desire to “find themselves.” Parents chided their boomer children because they lacked the values of self- sacrifice, community, and loyalty to established traditions. Just like parents today have little influence over defining their children’s’ changing values, it was the cultural and generational shifts of the 60’s and 70’s that molded baby boomers into people that their parents couldn’t identify with.

While some parts of the parent-child dynamics have stayed the same, others are much different. Economically, it was sink or swim for boomers whose parents didn’t typically have spare bedrooms to let their children “figure things out” in. Boomers had goals to reach in their twenties and they swam towards them. Young Americans excelled at finding jobs, having kids, and moving to the suburbs. Since then, values have shifted and the social pressures to reach those goals by a certain age have been pushed back. Millennials now find themselves in more of a float or swim situation, a perpetual drift that infuriates and worries parents. If you are a baby boomer era parent then you have probably thought, “I didn’t get this kind of help when I was in my twenties, I had to do it all on my own.” That’s probably true, but do you really want your children to have to also?

A young person who is stuck sitting on the couch is much different than the one who gets into trouble or spends all day in the garage recording a hit song that will be their big break. While all three types of children may frustrate parents, only one of them isn’t actually doing anything with their life. You probably see your child’s lack of motivation and can’t understand what is going on. But there are reasons generation Y is often called generation “why bother.” From mounting debt and lack of jobs to a political system that many millennials can’t identify with, millennials have reason to wonder if it’s “worth it.” They’ve witnessed instability in the workplace, business scandals, and their parents’ jobs being downsized after loyal years of service.  Believing you lack control over your future can quickly lead to the overwhelming feeling that nothing you do matters. If I work hard, I’ll just end up with bills, stress, and an unsatisfying, passionless life without the security that was promised to my parents. So why bother?

Many boomer-era parents pushed through difficult times because they embodied the motto, “work isn’t fun, that’s why its called work.” Unfortunately, saying that to a millennial is a prescription for resignation and apathy. Their generation believes that passion, fun, and meaning can be found, must be found, in the work they do. If you are wondering how to get your millennial off the couch, start by putting the control back in their hands. Independent thinking and knowing themselves are the first steps to finding passion and meaning.

In my next post, Liftoff, overcoming failure to launch, I’ll provide clear directives and ways to find support as you help your millennial overcome issues with:

  • Independence
  • Decision making
  • Resilience
  • Purpose


These are the basic building blocks to helping someone find a reason to get off the couch, fight apathy,  and find meaning in anything they do.

Naj loves reading, writing, and all things mental health. Feel free to reach out with questions about this post or anythings else you've read here

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