An Open Letter to the Parents of 20-Something’s: Here’s What We Really Want You To Say and Do When We’re Going Through A Challenging Time
To You – The Loving Parent/s,
I know that it breaks your heart when you see your 20-something child go through a challenging time. If only you could scoop us up in a big bear hug, wipe our tears dry and place a band-aid on our skinned knee…except you can’t (well you would if we were 6, but now that we’re 26 – that would be kinda’ weird!)
When we didn’t get that job that we were hoping for, when we’ve just had our heart ripped in two, when we’re struggling to pay rent or save for that house deposit, and when we’re overwhelmed with anxiety trying to figure it all out – you are the first person we call. You do your best to soothe and to offer advice (which you do a great job of might I add!), but I know how helpless you feel when we’re knee deep in self-doubt, unsure of our next best steps.
So what do you say? And what do you do when all you want is to make everything better? From my heart to yours, here are a few suggestions on how you can support the twenty-somethings in your life as we navigate those big life transitions. And spoiler alert – you’re already doing much better than you think!
Please Don’t Continually Ask Us When We’re Going To Get Married/Have Kids/Get A ‘Real Job’…
We know that you care – deeply – but those well-intentioned question’s hinting about when we’re going to get a ‘boyfriend/girlfriend’ or when we’re going to ‘settle down’ sends us into a stress-filled spiral. There’s no harm in asking the question once or twice, but continually bringing it up makes us feel like we’re not where we’re ‘supposed’ to be in life.
If we’re not married yet? You bet we’re already thinking about when that will happen, or if we’re still studying at 28? We’re praying like hell that we’ll get a decent job out of it. And as for babies? Well, we’re already aware that our biological clock is ticking and we’re shit scared that time is of the essence (I can hear my own clock ticking – it’s THAT loud). Not only do we feel this pressure internally from ourselves, but when we’re constantly being asked about future events from our loved ones? Panic starts to set in making us feel like we’re falling short.
Instead of asking about reaching ‘specific’ milestones, try asking open-ended questions such as;
+ What are your big hopes and dreams – now and in the future?
+ What’s working really well for you at the moment?
+ How do you feel about the year ahead?
Not once do these questions mention the word marriage, babies or careers which shows that you care more about us as a person, rather than ticking off a checklist or timeline. It’s asking these sorts of open-ended questions which enable us to open up, share how we’re really feeling and let you in on what’s most important to us (and our future aspirations too). I promise there will be no more eye-rolling, or unintentional hurt feelings if you start asking from that point of view, rather than pre-empting what we ‘should’ be doing with our lives.
Don’t Be Disheartened If We Don’t Open Up and Share EVERYTHING With You
There will be times when we’ll get caught up in our own little world, or we won’t feel like updating you so please don’t take this personally. It’s actually got nothing to do with you and is more about us trying to process what we’re thinking, feeling and experiencing at any given moment.
I know that every parent/child dynamic is different, and whilst we may consider you to be our ‘friend’…you’re still not going to be our ‘BEST friend’ (and hey, you’re not supposed to be!). Of course we want you to be involved in our lives, but sometimes when you’re too emotionally invested – we get scared to tell you what’s really going on (like the idea of quitting our well-paying job to follow our passion for writing, or the loneliness we’ve been feeling, even if we’re surrounded by dear friends).
If we’re not opening up to you, trust that we will or are already opening up to others. Friends and loved ones are great to chat to, but sometimes we need to seek guidance from people that aren’t intimately involved in our lives and that can offer a neutral perspective. (Side note and shameless plug: This is the kind of safe space that I provide in my coaching sessions with my twenty-something clients. They get to express their hopes, fears and challenges freely and I love helping them to confidently come up with their own solutions in a judgement free zone.)
Tell Us Stories and Real-Life Examples of How You Personally Overcame Setbacks
To us, it seems like everyone else has it all figured out. We’ve grown up seeing you – our parent/s –raise us, feed us, house us, and do all those adult things, and now that we’re looking after ourselves, we’re seriously wondering HOW the hell did you do it? How did you save and stay afloat when all the bills piled up and you had mouths to feed? What did you do when you felt like giving up? Did you ever have to take risks without fully knowing it was going to work out?
These are the questions we secretly want to ask you, but don’t – and it’s these kind of stories and real-life examples that give us hope that it’s all going to be ok. Whilst it might seem like our problems are ‘first world problems’ compared to when you were younger, we do appreciate hearing your stories of resilience, knowing that you’ve been able to overcome your own set of setbacks and challenges in life.
Simply Be There for Us
As much as you want to see us happy and thriving, you don’t have to be the superhero that fixes our problems. Simply being there and knowing that we have an attentive ear to listen to our rants and cries is the greatest thing you could do for us as twenty-somethings. Who would have thought that spilling our worries onto someone that has known us all our life could bring us so much comfort? It does!
So on behalf of my fellow twenty-something’s – thank you dear parent/s for all that you’ve done for us, now and into the future. We’ll love you forever if you can hold off from highlighting where we ‘should’ be in life and instead, walk beside us as we figure this out for ourselves. We’re already so darn hard on ourselves as it is, and we promise you’ll be the first person to know when things are looking up. You’ll know… because we’ll make you pay for the champagne! Ha.
P.s. Feel free to pass this on to any well-meaning parents out there. Or if you happen to be a parent yourself, perhaps this letter might be the perfect ice-breaker to talk openly and honestly about the challenges that your 20-something is experiencing right now?
P.P.S If you want to find out more about my online coaching services for 20-somethings, you can read all about my 3 month or once off packages here, or feel free to book in a no-obligation chat with me here.