Growing up in the 80s and 90s to the sounds of MTV, Super Mario Brothers and the robotic groan of dial-up Internet wasn’t all fun, games and rose-colored glasses.
Our parents did their best, at times veering from the script that they had been raised to follow. They encouraged their daughters to play sports and pursue careers in science and technology, and were more supportive when kids came out of the closet than previous generations. But our understanding of certain topics has changed in recent decades. The ways we speak about food, body size and gender identity, for example, have evolved substantially.
HuffPost asked Millennials what they wish their parents had done differently. Here’s what they had to say:
1. Been more firm and practical in their career advice
“I did pretty well in school, and most of my teachers thought I’d go straight to college, but as a 16-year old I decided that I’d rather become a cabinet maker and work with wood ... It eventually turned out to be repetitive work, mostly in a factory setting, that I didn’t find very fulfilling.
I decided to pursue further education and picked architecture in the hopes of becoming a furniture designer. After finishing my degree, I [looked] for a job for over a year and eventually lost my motivation to become an architect. Today I work with construction.
I wish that my parents would have encouraged me to explore academics early on. Had they pushed me in the right direction and been a bit more critical of my choices, I’d probably led a quite different life today. If I could go back and start over, I’d study medicine.” —Tommy
2. Cared for their own mental health
“I wish my parents had treated their own trauma before they had kids. Both experienced significant traumatic events and were just expected to deal with it on their own. As a result, both have extremely low stress tolerances, are quick to anger, are extremely sensitive, and avoid anything stressful at all. They might have parented with better restraint and more patience, and wouldn’t have passed on their trauma responses to their kids, if they had gotten proper treatment — and grew up in a society that didn’t stigmatise people who seek that treatment.” — Karen
3. Taught us financial literacy
“I wish my parents talked to me and taught me about credit and investing. I got married young at 19 and struggled financially with my husband for years. I finally started learning and teaching myself about credit and 401ks/IRAs at 30 and started fixing my credit. I’m 41 and hope to finally buy my first home with my husband next year.
I am a parent. My two oldest, 17 and 20, have been on my credit cards as an authorised buyer since they were 16. They both have been working since 16 so I opened up a ROTH IRA for each of them, which they contribute to monthly, along with high interest savings accounts. My 20-year-old’s credit is already over 750 and she has been able to get two car loans under her own name for her and her brother to pay. She’ll be able to buy a house within the next five years and they both will most likely be able to retire before 60!”— S.C.
“I really wish my parents had taught me more practical life skills like personal finance and investing. They provided me with a very stable and loving childhood, but focused mostly on academics and traditional career paths like medicine or law. I entered the workforce woefully unprepared when it came to understanding taxes, budgeting, financial planning and passive income streams. It wasn’t until my 30s that I started properly educating myself on money management.” — Katie
4. Didn’t insist on going straight to a 4-year college after graduation
“The push for a four year college after high school: There was literally no other option in their eyes. I remember bringing up a two-year college once and my mother was livid and acted disgusted by even the thought of it. She had me apply to several schools I wasn’t interested in ‘just in case’ I didn’t get in anywhere else. I knew I wasn’t ready to be living in a dorm for four years away from my family, but I didn’t dare bring up the possibility of a gap year. I don’t know if this was all due to appearances or if they were really concerned I wouldn’t have opportunities without a bachelor’s degree.
Surprise surprise, I went into a deep depression my freshman year, developed an eating disorder and graduated with a degree I don’t use at all. It was a complete waste of time and money.
I went back to school in my late twenties when I was ready and I’m currently an RN. Ironically, it was an associate program and I actually use my degree happily. I will never push my kids into college if they aren’t ready/don’t want to. There are plenty of other options!” — Elizabeth
5. Considered our perspective and been more mindful with discipline
“I have kids and I don’t hit them, I explain everything they want to know, I tell them I love them, I respect and encourage their passions, I make them do chores and explain why they have to learn to do them. None of those were done to me. I was hit, ignored, hardly ever heard ‘I love you’ or ‘Proud of you.’ I was mocked for my love of books (they even donated my comics). I had to do chores ‘because they said so.’” — Michele
“I wish my parents had been better about regulating their own emotions instead of just being intensely reactive. I don’t hit or threaten my kids. I don’t get mad at them for asking me questions, and I don’t let my own ego get in the way of parenting them. I have realistic expectations of their behaviour since they are children who are still developing.” — Jillian
“When my children behave towards me in ways that I recall being hit or spanked over as a child, it’s like a constant reminder of how unfair our childhoods were. Our generation had to deal with a lot of pain, literally, and now we have to turn it all around and show up better for our children.” — Angela
6. Let go of outdated ideas
“I wish that they had moved past their parents’ opinions and stopped with the outdated ideas: kids should be seen and not heard, you’re too young to be doing whatever, child labor is acceptable, save yourself for marriage, eat everything on your plate, there are kids starving in Africa/China that would love to have the food you are given.” — Colleen
7. Spent more time connecting with us
“My parents didn’t make family a priority. We, their children, were not the priority. Work, their romantic relationships and the families of their romantic partners almost always came before us. Now as a parent I see that putting family, specifically my children, first is a choice that has to be made every day. I’m trying hard to be conscientious of that and remind myself that if I want my children to have a healthy and lasting relationship with me, I have to build this foundation now. Otherwise we’ll end up barely interacting in adulthood like I do with my own parents.” — Jamie
“I really wish my mom would have put her kids first. Partners always came before us and I had a hard time finding any sense of self-esteem because of this.” — Candice
“One thing I wish my parents had done differently is prioritise me more within our family dynamic. I often felt overshadowed by the needs and demands of other family members, whether it was my siblings or even extended relatives. I longed for more individual attention and a sense of importance within the family unit. It would have been meaningful if my parents had made a conscious effort to spend quality one-on-one time with me, engaging in activities that catered to my interests and aspirations.” — Chris
8. Acknowledged our feelings
“I wish my feelings would have been acknowledged instead of dismissed. I constantly ask my own children now how they are feeling and if they want to talk about anything.” — Catherine
“I wish they told me ‘I love you.’ And I wish they would have taken me and my feelings more seriously rather than playing the ‘cause I am the adult and I said so’ [card]. Needless to say, I tell my kids ‘I love you.’ I explain myself and my decisions to my kids so they understand my actions. And I apologise to my children when I was wrong or I acted unkind.” — Tina
“I wish lots of Millennial kids’ parents had understood that to have an emotionally regulated child, they have to first teach that child how to regulate by regulating for them when they’re babies/toddlers/possibly older, and modelling appropriate regulation themselves. Shoving a crying kid off in a bedroom because you don’t want to deal with them and their disappointment/anger/sadness/over-tiredness and the uncomfortable feelings that evokes in you isn’t proper parenting.” — Rebecca
9. Not expected us to act like little adults
“Read a book on child development. As a child I was treated like a mini-adult. I was expected to do things, understand things, and put in situations that were completely and totally developmentally inappropriate and even unsafe. The only ‘acceptable’ feeling was happiness. We didn’t dare show anger, sadness, frustration or disappointment with our parents or our lives. We were mocked for crying and hit all the time. You weren’t allowed to ask questions about sex or the human body or religion or the unjust family dynamic or family belief systems.” — Sarah
“I was the babysitter since I was the eldest daughter. I never got the chance to act like a kid as I was forced to think beyond my age. I think I missed being a kid and a teenager. I was forced to dismiss my emotions.” — Fauzia
10. Explained things instead of saying ‘Because I said so’
“Open communication is a big deal for me. My parents were not horrible parents but it was very ‘Because i said so’ for many things when I was only trying to understand. My parents were young and did not have great parental guidance growing up. I’m sure me asking why (or for details) may have come off as disrespectful or rebellious because of the culture they grew up in.” — Sandra
11. Been less critical and more loving
“I wish you could have seen me as my own person, I wish you could have understood that I didn’t need your help or your judgement, I just needed your love. Your constant surveillance of my life, my eating habits, my friends, my choices, only served to turn you into my adversary. What I really needed was your love and support.” — Alex
12. Accepted our bodies
“My parents were very loving and supportive in general. The only thing I didn’t feel supported in was my body. Growing up in the early 2000s was a terrible time for body image. Although my parents never called me names and approached topics of my weight with loving intentions, I felt othered from a young age and was encouraged to diet as early as elementary school. I was told by my parents that they were worried that I would never find love looking the way I did. This was devastating to hear from the people I loved and trusted.
13. Respected our autonomy
“Something my husband and I have made a priority is allowing our children their own autonomy. No making them hug or kiss anyone, allowing them to have a say in big family decisions and [believing] that their opinions are valid. I remember being told ‘That’s a grownup decision’ and ‘Give (random extended family member) a hug.’ I hated it.” — Sonya