The Millennial Challenge (Part 1)

“Look around me, I can see my life before me
Running rings around the way it used to be
I am older now I have more than what I wanted
But I wish that I had started long before I did”

– “Wasted on the Way” by Crosby Stills & Nash (1982)

 

This blog is an introduction to additional issues and pressures for younger adults who are sometimes referred to as Millennials. This group, the biggest since the Baby Boom Generation, includes those roughly between ages of 22 and 37. If you think this information might help your family understand some of your issues, please share this with them. Also see this YouTube video for a humorous portrayal of being a Millennial.

We refer to this as a challenge because of the social, educational, economic, and family changes that have occurred over the past 30-40 years. When those who grew up in the Baby Boom Generation reached their late teens, they could decide whether to go to college, enter the job market, enter the military, or simply get married and start a family. Often the choices of these young adults led to a career/work/lifestyle path that was likely to be relatively stable and predictable. The economy was relatively strong and many got jobs (with or without a college degree) and could expect to work at the same company for many years until retirement. Their career/work path was set rather early in life. Most of the young adults of that generation were economically sound enough that they could leave the family home for an apartment or home of their own. Today these things are clearly not as stable and predictable for Millennials – you know who you are!

Family structure in addition to the economy has changed dramatically in the past 40 years making certain family stressors more prevalent now. For example, the divorce rate in the late 1960s was about 25% but went up closer to 50% from the 1970s to today. This means that roughly double the number of young adults had to cope with parents who no longer lived together. This has also increased the number of those who grew up primarily in a single-parent household or in a blended family with a step-parent. These factors can all add to the general sense of instability and insecurity about life in general and relationships in particular. This lack of stability and predictability could make everything a little more uncertain, and potentially lead to a feeling that there is not much control in your life.

Another major adjustment for Millennials has been exacerbated by the economic problems that started in 2007-2008. More young adults have to live with their parents for pure economic reasons. A survey in 2013 found that over 30% of Millennials live with their parents. This could create even greater adjustments for those younger adults who would prefer the independence and the privacy of living on their own, but are prevented from living separately because of financial factors. Many in their mid-20s through their 30s have student debt as well as lower earnings and savings that make home ownership extremely difficult without the financial help of parents. This economic dilemma is magnified for young adults who have children needing child care so both parents can work if necessary.

There has also been an increasing pressure in our school systems from high school on to increase academic testing to prove that performance is where it should be in your educational pursuits. This emphasis on competition can be quite challenging and is likely to be a persistent requirement for success by Millennials in our culture. So, students in college will now face more testing than ever before in order advance in their career.

With all of these factors in mind, if you are a Millennial you will need to be prepared to meet these challenges to not only be successful, but also to maintain a healthy sense of well-being. When I use the term “well-being” I am referring to much more than your physical health, although that is an important facet of well-being. I am referring to the much broader notion of well-being that encompasses

    • your social life with significant connections to others,
    • your satisfaction with school/work/career accomplishments, and
    • some general sense of happiness, life satisfaction, and positive emotions.

Developing resilient coping skills could help you prepare for this complicated set of challenges at this crucial period in your life. These coping skills can certainly buffer you from unnecessary stress, minimize any physical complications from the stress that you do encounter, and improve your performance in high-pressure situations.

The strategies covered on this site and in our books are in no way a cure all for the challenges ahead. Factors such as the economy in general, your financial resources, work and educational opportunities can all present certain obstacles for you. Aside from learning these methods, what else can improve your success? Our next blog post will cover some of the qualities that you can develop or strengthen to help you succeed in meeting the challenges of this generation.

Tony Ciminero, Ph. D. is an author and clinical psychologist based in South Florida. His consulting firm (Ciminero & Associates, P.A.) provides crisis intervention services world-wide. His most recent book publications include the iCope book series. For additional resources, explore iCopeWithStress.com.