Millennials have something of a mixed reputation in today’s world. Sure, they’re the hope for the future – but it seems like every second article decries how they just can’t live up to the expectations that their parents and grandparents have set for them. As a Boomer, you’ve actually been on the other end of this discussion – you’re the descendant of “The Greatest Generation”, and you know what it’s like to have different expectations for your future. Before you judge your Millennial grandchildren too harshly, it might be a good idea to learn a bit more about them.
If you’re a Boomer, a great deal of your experience will be with your grandchildren. As such, it’s important to take a look at how their relationships with the generations that preceded them has been established, and how they’re likely to look towards family relationships in the future.
First and foremost, Millennials are the children of your children. Taking a moment to look at the Generation X mindset will give you a great deal of insight in how many of these young men and women were raised. These were individuals that increasingly came from single-parent homes, who were raised largely by television, and may feel as if their relationships with their parents are strained at best. At the same time, it’s easy to see the generation as coddled and given extra protection – the “self-esteem” and “political correctness” movements were the environments in which they grew up.
On the other hand, Millennials are more likely to live at home due to economic circumstances. It’s normal to see a post-college member of this group still living at home even if they have steady employment. Rising housing prices and limited job opportunities have made Millennials into a generation who leave the nest slowly, but tend to resent their status at the same time.
A Generation Defined by Technology
While the Millennials span a wide age range, one thing holds very true – they are a technology-drive generation. As a rule, they all tend to be children who grew up with computers and the internet, and who are probably more comfortable working with software than going to a hardware store. While Millennials certainly have many skills that would put them right at home with their parents and grandparents, technology has impacted them in a way that’s hard to overstate. While you might feel comfortable with the newest technology, your average Millennial takes to technology as easy as breathing.
Social media is probably one of the areas where Millennials tend to stand out beyond their peers. This generation doesn’t just post about their days – they live online. Many have entire relationships that will never penetrate the physical space, and they’ll use online services for everything ranging from music to dating. It’s hard to understand the Millennial mindset without understanding the impact technology has on their lives. While there are certainly many within the group that avoid social media and tend to live a more tech-free lifestyle, it’s impossible to fully separate the experience of this generation from the technology with which they have grown up.
Think back to your own childhood for a moment. If there’s one thing that separates Boomers from their children, it’s probably the sense of community they experienced. While your grandchildren might not have had the freedom to run and play like you had, they have had more of a chance to interact with the world around them – and Millennials are quickly building communities that have shockingly similar values to those that you might tend to prize.
While Boomers might have left the cities for the suburbs, Millennials tend to go the other way. When doing so, though, they’re embracing many of the same attitudes that older generations might have displayed. Millennials, for example, are more likely to know their neighbors than their parents may have been. They’re also more likely to engage in community activities and outreach. For this generation, community has become an important feature. While their communities might not have the same values as those of their grandparents, they’re more similar than you might suspect. This is one generation that definitely believes in building up relationships in the communities in which they live.
Millenials are a Force for the Future
One thing that’s important to understand about millennials, in general is that they have a remarkable amount of focus on the future. While you might hear quite a few people complain about a lack of motivation in the generation, the truth of the matter is that most have their eyes on the horizon. Millennials tend to be planners, even if they don’t know exactly where they are going. After years of being told they can do anything they put their minds to, it turns out that many of them actually believe that to be true.
Part of the confusion as to the motivation of this generation has to do with how they express themselves. Millennials don’t tend to be the most active voters, for examples – but they are among the most active age group for volunteering. This a generation that doesn’t necessarily trust those who have come before them, and have seen the issues that their parents and grandparents have faced. Likewise, Millennials tend to have less loyalty to the companies for which they work and more interest in working for themselves. While Millennials might have a reputation for being lazy, it might be closer to the truth that they are less interested in working if they don’t get rewarded with the fruits of their labor.
Millennials tend to have difficult relationships with the world around them. They’re motivated and optimistic, but ill-equipped for a world that doesn’t seem to fit them quite yet. In short, they’re in the same place you were a few decades ago – so take some time to learn about what makes them similar to you instead of what makes them so different. You might find that you have more in common than you might have suspected.