Katie's brother took her to task. "You are too involved in your children's lives." He didn't explain what he meant. She didn't ask him to explain. When she accidentally stumbled over something called "helicopter parents" she figured it out on her own. He was saying she over-parented and needed to step back and let her children experience their lives.
She had encouraged her children to participate in some sports activities, but she'd never forced them if they didn't want to do it. She had sent them outside to play but watched them from beyond their sight and awareness because she didn't want them to be afraid to live their lives. With all the news reports about missing children, she didn't want to be paranoid or cause her children to be. She just wanted to be cautious.
She had not structured every minute of the children's waking hours. She gave them some free rein over themselves so they would learn self-control, earn their freedom a little bit at a time so they would understand how to handle the freedom of being an adult making sound decisions.
Not to say she was perfect. She knew she wasn't. But she'd parented the best she knew how, and always reinforced her love for her children. But "helicopter parenting"? Hovering over them, inhibiting them? And though friends had thought she was misguided in her parenting, now the "right" thing is reportedly, "Less is more; hovering is dangerous; failure is fruitful." Children have to learn from their mistakes.
Through all of the years of hovering and directing every aspect of children's lives we have arrived at the Millennial Generation, young people ages 18 to 25, children of the Baby Boomers who were born between 1946 and 1964. The Millennials have been brought up using digital technology and mass media. This generation doesn't know that cell phones haven't always been around, or what it was like to navigate without GPS or how to file a paper income tax return.
They also don't have a problem with diversity (racial, ethnic or sexual orientation). They are less likely to serve in the military. They want to make a difference in the world because they always have been told they can. They don't have to be married to have children. They stay close to family and their parents are involved in every facet of their lives. They also are the most educated people in history. The Great Recession has affected their ability to begin their careers. If they can't find jobs, they go back to school. They want to learn. They want to be heard, to find meaning in their lives.
So, what is missing?
They don't subscribe to a specific religion, choosing to be spiritual rather than religious. Their lives have been affected by major events such as 911, the Obama campaign, the Great Recession and technology.
The Pew Research Center (PRC) describes the Millennials as confident, connected and open to change. "Millennials have already distinguished themselves as a generation that gets along well with others, especially their elders," advises PRC. "For a nation whose population is rapidly going gray, that could prove to be a most welcome character trait."
The state of Ohio has some specific outreach goals for the Millennials including decreasing the number of 18 to 25-year-olds, the nation's future leaders, engaged in high risk use of alcohol, illicit drugs and misuse of prescription medications.
How in tune with the Millennial Generation are you? Take the quiz at pewresearch.org/millennials/quiz/intro.php.
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