It’s no secret that Millennial parents are doing things their own way, raising the next generations in a different style than their parents raised them. Having taken a major lead on making mental health conversations mainstream, making it commonplace for Gen Z, Millennials are ensuring their own Gen Alpha kids are raised more emotionally intelligent, too. For them, that means developing new parenting styles that incorporate mental health management skills—for both their children and themselves. It also means not minimizing the struggles their kids face today, as they know how it felt to grow up during hard times and only learn to cope with it later in life.
YPulse’s Mental Health report asks Gen Z and Millennials all about their own mental health, but also asks Millennial parents how they’re approaching it with their Gen Z and Gen Alpha kids. These three stats give a picture of how this generation of parents is making mental health a conscious focus in their kids’ lives:
For much of young Gen Z, and now Gen Alpha, their early years have taken place during a global pandemic. That means for many, formative times of childhood have been shaped by instability and isolation, losing out on time to socialize with other kids and make fun memories. Experts agree that this has caused a crisis for children’s mental health—and our data shows 42% of Millennial parents themselves say their child’s mental health has been impacted by the Coronavirus crisis. It’s clear that Millennial parents are concerned about their kids’ mental wellbeing going forward, with the majority agreeing that they’re worried about the future of their child’s mental health. And as Millennial parents try to navigate it, they’ve found child therapists in short supply.
But, since mental health has become a less taboo topic, some schools have been embracing more conversations about mental wellness, even for young students. And though some parents are getting the added benefit of these conversations reaching classrooms, others say it’s still lacking; when YPulse asks young people what schools should teach that they don’t currently, coping skills and mental wellness are two top answers. And our Mental Health survey data shows 79% of Millennial parents agree, “Children should have mindfulness / meditation training in school.” So, while raising the topic is definitely a good step, Millennial parents want schools to be even more involved in helping their children learn about the self-care and emotion regulation they’re already talking about at home.
The vast majority of Millennial parents are making it a point to have honest conversations with their children about mental health in ways that their Boomer parents likely did not. The majority (80%) also agree “I want to live in a world where people openly talk about their mental health.” And they’re raising their kids at a time when these conversations are more mainstream than ever, and mental wellness help and information is more accessible. While there is widespread concern for their children’s mental health, 81% of parents also agree “My children have more access to mental health resources than I did at that age,” which they have a major hand in. They are taking their own, more open approach to mental health and passing it on to their children.
One way parents are learning to navigate this is from each other on social media. Our data show their parenting is undoubtedly being impacted by their time on social media, and they especially look to content about how hard it really is to be a parent today. Because 88% of Millennial parents agree “I like when people are honest about how hard it is to be a parent,” even brands can be part of this. By focusing campaigns on the less on the picturesque parts and more on tough parts of parenting or the focus on mental health in family life, brands can win over Millennial parents looking for help where they can get it. In fact, 82% of Millennial parents agree “I like it when brands make mental health a part of their marketing and messaging.”
In addition to open conversations about mental health, Millennial parents agree that they’re taking mental health into consideration when it comes to their parenting style. Where previous generations proudly became “helicopter parents,” or unknowingly acted as “almond moms,” Millennials are making “gentle parenting” trend. Gentle parenting is a popular term on social media, and is defined by communicating less reactively and more empathetically and rejecting harsh forms of discipline in favor of teaching their children to understand natural consequences. On TikTok (which 55% of Millennial parents use), the hashtag #GentleParenting has 3.2B views, with several top creators posting real time conversations with their children that show how they navigate mistake making, tantrums, and even early skill teaching with more understanding and consideration.
YPulse data shows 72% of Millennial parents agree “I teach practical mental health techniques to my children,” which is another huge conversation online. The parenting techniques this gen favors prioritizes giving their children tools to identify their emotions, feel them in whatever way they need to, and certainly not punishing them for struggling to deal with them. And because Millennial parents are looking to give their children the tools to understand their emotions independently as well as with support, 35% tell YPulse they’re interested in TV shows/videos for their kids that help them deal with anxiety and stress, as well as 35% who are interested in toys/games for it.
Of course, many Millennial parents are taking their own mental health into consideration as they develop their parenting styles, too. YPulse’s Mental Health report data shows 66% of parents say, “I constantly feel stressed,” compared to 59% of non-parents; and 87% of Millennial moms say they have felt burnt out, versus 78% of Millennial dads and 77% of non-parents. By shaping their parenting style around being honest about their emotions and showing kindness both ways in their relationships with their children, these parents are treating themselves with care, too.