Parenting is timeless with each generation of parents faced with the challenge of how to successfully raise their infant through childhood and adolescence into adulthood with a future filled with happiness and personal achievement. However, even though parts of parenting are timeless, the unique hurdles change for each generation, especially for today’s millennial parents – our own children.
For the baby boomer generation, when we were parents, we faced a world where information was constantly expanding, creating an increasing spectrum of opinions for every topic. When we wondered how to best parent our children through any specific stage, we turned to Dr. Benjamin Spock, a pediatrician, and his book, Baby and Child Care. That book, published in 1946, became one of the best sellers of all time; and that book was found in every American household.
Do you remember his recommendations for raising your child? He encouraged parents to be flexible and affectionate, treating each child as an individual. Although he offered many specific suggestions for each problem, he was best known for his constant reframe. He believed that mothers always knew much more than they thought they knew; and he encouraged mothers to follow their own instincts. If mothers could trust themselves, Dr. Spock believed their children would turn out just fine as adults.
For today’s 22 million millennial parents, most of them have never heard of Dr. Spock. Instead, they have the Internet and Google. They also have Facebook and Instagram. How does that make a difference? Around half of all millennial parents have posted a picture of their baby online, either in the womb or before the baby was even 1 day old. Do you remember shooting pictures of your baby that early? Maybe. But do you remember sharing your baby’s picture with the whole world? What was once private is often now very public.
Is there a downside to that level of exposure to so many of your peers? Yes. It’s called competition. It’s one thing when today’s colleges offer the steepest odds for acceptance in our history. It’s another thing when your baby is compared to other babies on day 1 of his or her existence. The comparisons do not stop at any point in their lives. If someone’s baby walks at 7 months, you see it on Instagram. If someone else’s baby starts spouting words at 9 months, the whole world seems to know.
With so much competition, what can millennial parents do? They worry. So, what can baby boomers offer? We can try to shift some of our praise from our grandson or granddaughter to the parent – our own child. Today’s millennial parents want to hear they are good parents, even great parents. Yes, their approach is different than ours. Families today are more democratic with the entire family often making a shared decision. In our days it was more of a dictatorship by one or both of the parents. But ignore those different parenting approaches. Just know that they need our support and love now more than ever.
If that completion is not enough to give you a reason for concern, appreciate the other central challenge. Today’s newborn baby has over a 100 toxic chemicals in his or her umbilical cord. The majority of children show GMOs in their bloodstream. The children are bombarded by chemicals with some of them causing dysfunction in the nervous system. We have a current massive surge in developmental disorders from ADHD to autistic spectrum disorders to a multitude of learning deficits. These children, dealt a bad hand, need more good parenting than ever.
Appreciate our challenge and our opportunity. Many baby boomers feel as if they have been marginalized and pushed aside. In the marketplace that bias certainly exists. Baby boomers get terminated from employment; and baby boomers struggle to re-enter the work force. But there is one area where we have an open door and a great opportunity. That area is the family and the home. Remember Dr. Spock’s admonition to trust ourselves? We need to say those same words, over and over again, to the millennial parents and applaud their parenting skills.
There is something else we must do as our starting point. 59% of baby boomers are social-media users compared to 75% of Generation X and 90% of millennial parents. We need to become more computer proficient so we can become a larger part of their life. Yes, the task is overwhelming. Google, itself, can be overwhelming. Try completing a search for one question. You can find thousands, not hundreds, of articles with different answers. But, if we are going to help our children with the challenge of parenting, we need to become daily users of the computer with increased communication.
There is the well-known perspective that 90% of life is just “showing up.” Well, that’s what we need to do. We need to be more involved in the families of our children. Many baby boomers cannot do that in person, except through periodic family visits, often driving or flying to another state. But we can be involved, on a daily or weekly basis, or as much as we want, through Facebook, Instagram, FaceTime, Skype, and an assortment of other social-media connections.
If you are feeling shut out from your children and/or the families of your children, the solution must come from us, not them. They are already overwhelmed with their 24/7 life and the deluge of world problems. We did not have any school shootings. We did not have beheadings. Yes, we had disasters, but they were usually at a distance, not up close and personal. Our children, the millennial parents, need something else up close and personal – us. And our help. How about setting up the computer and learning email or Skype or Facebook? We were always good learners. Why stop now?
If you visit the surviving indigenous tribes, such as the Aborigines of Australia or the Adivasi of India, what would you see? You would see all the members of the tribe gathered around the campfire at night, listening to the elders. In today’s chaotic world, we can still create the feeling of that campfire setting; and we can still assume a respected, honored, and active role in our millennial families. Just like the old days when we picked up Dr. Spock’s book, we just need to re-educate ourselves on the computer; and we need to re-emerge as a positive, supportive, familiar voice in their families – and not from a distance.
So, let’s do our children a favor and find a way to be more involved …
Let’s help our millennial parents raise their children …
Let it be our final footprint …
Something for them to always remember …