What Millennials Say About Their Parents During Therapy

"You know there’s a problem when the mother of a 28-year-old calls to schedule a therapy consultation for her son."
FilippoBacci via Getty Images

Unlike some generations before them, millennials aren’t afraid to put in time on a therapist’s couch.

What’s on their minds besides an uncertain job market, wariness about marriage and student debt? For many, it’s their parents, said Deborah Duley, a psychotherapist and founder of Empowered Connections, a counselling practice that specialises in women, girls and the LGBTQ+ community.

“We went from a parent-focused society to a child-focused society, and this generation are the products of this flux in our parenting focus,“ Duley told HuffPost. “As a result, I hear consistent complaints that their parents are micromanaging their lives to the point of it being suffocating and overbearing.”

Duley and other therapists across the country share more parent-related complaints they hear from clients in their 20s and 30s.

1. I grew up with helicopter parents, and now I can’t function like a real adult.

“The No. 1 problem I see with millennials and their parents is one that millennials don’t complain about because they aren’t aware it’s even happening most of the time. You know there’s a problem when the mother of a 28-year-old calls to schedule a therapy consultation for her son. Parents of millennials are notoriously helicopter parents, which inhibits young adults from becoming independent and learning to solve their own problems.” ― Tara Griffith, a therapist and founder of Wellspace SF, a San Francisco community of licensed therapists, nutritionists and certified coaches

2. I feel like a failure by my parents’ standards.

“One theme I hear related to the parent-child relationship is not feeling good enough. Millennials grow up with parents who have high expectations, and failure is not only discouraged but it’s not even allowed in some instances. While parents want their children to be successful, the overall message has become if you aren’t successful by your parents’ expectations, then you’re a loser. A failure. You’re not good enough. Women from this generation in particular struggle with this as they also have to deal with society, social media and public opinion telling them they’re not good enough. Add on another layer of parent disapproval and it can be devastating. I see women paralysed in their emotional growth because of the messages they’ve been fed about who they should be.” ― Duley

3. My parents don’t think I need therapy.

“A number of my clients have complained that their parents do not ‘believe’ in therapy or they view it as a sign of weakness. There’s a stigma associated with therapy for the parents. This often leads grown kids to feel invalidated or misunderstood, or they may believe that they are not ‘strong enough’ to handle their own problems. Some clients express frustration because they cannot openly talk to their parents about their mental health struggles. Consequently, they are unable to seek support from some of the most important people in their life.” ― Gina Delucca, a psychologist at Wellspace SF

4. My parents have become helicopter grandparents.

“Once they have kids, millennials are experiencing their own parents having strong opinions around their parenting styles and decisions. It can become an issue when people feel obligated to prioritise their parents’ opinions before their partners’ or their own. Parenting is a very individual journey, and many millennials receive criticism for the progressive ways they choose to parent their kids. It works best when individuals can hold to their own parenting values and communicate assertive boundaries with their family about the things they don’t want or need their involvement on.” ― Liz Higgins, a couples therapist in Dallas

5. My parents are overly involved in my financial life.

“One of the bigger issues that comes up is parents not respecting boundaries or being overly involved in their kids’ lives, especially with finances. Parents feel entitled to information because oftentimes they’re providing financial assistance. For instance, when parents pay for a child’s psychotherapy, they frequently ask about the content of the sessions without respecting privacy. They reach out to me to explain their child’s difficulties when there’s no clinical need for this information. Sometimes, when a patient sets a boundary with the parent, the parent blames or misattributes their child’s autonomy with the therapist interfering in the relationship. It’s like the therapy they’re paying for is seen as a threat to the relationship between the parent and child.” ― Jennifer Stone, a therapist in New York City

6. My parents didn’t teach me how to navigate negative emotions.

“One more constant I hear is the lack of instruction on how to handle negative emotions and experiences. Time and time again, I see millennial women struggling mightily with managing their negative emotions. They’ve been taught through learned behavior that negative emotions are to be avoided at all costs; that anxiety is a normal part of a woman’s daily life and she should handle it by simply taking a pill or avoiding the emotions altogether through unhealthy methods. This, I feel, is the most harmful message that a child can receive. Understanding that negative emotions are normal, are to be expected and can actually be purposeful is a game changer for these women. I spend most of my work with this generation learning to not only ride the waves of our emotional landscape but how to access healthy coping skills and build resilience.” — Duley