Parenting Adult Children | Understanding Your 20-Something Kids

Empty Nest Blessed by Suzy Mighell
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This beauty is just one of my three 20-something kids. Learning to parent them has been challenging, but rewarding. Watching them grow and mature has been kind of like watching a flower go from a bud to full bloom. The most significant thing I’ve learned? I’m not really sure what species of flower they are! Oh, I know things like their respective temperaments, their love languages, and their gifts and abilities, but what I’m still coming to grips with are all the things that make their generation unique. Several months ago, I started reading everything I could get my hands on about 20-somethings today and what makes them tick. Today, I’m sharing what I’ve learned with you. The characteristics I’m sharing are generalizations, and may or may not apply to your 20-something kids. (I have a feeling you’ll recognize at least a few of these traits, though!) My hope is that by understanding (and accepting) the characteristics of this generation we can do a better job of developing supportive, positive relationships with our adult kids.

Healthy Living

In general, 20-somethings seem to be rebelling against the excesses and indulgences of their elders by actively pursuing a healthy lifestyle. I’ve really noticed this with mine! They’ll indulge, but they don’t seem to feel as guilty about it as we do because they balance their indulgences with appropriate portion control. Typically, they seem to treat their bodies better than we do on a daily basis, making healthy choices in many different areas of their lives.

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Clean Eating

Your 20-something kids probably drink less alcohol, eat less meat, and eat more vegetables than you do. According to market research firm NPD Group, consumers in the 18-34 age group increased their per capita consumption of vegetables by 7% last year over the previous year. In the same time frame, consumers aged 55-64 decreased their vegetable intake by 13%! Your kids may have declared themselves vegetarians, vegan, or gluten-free, and they probably prefer sophisticated, creative flavors and multiple textures in their foods.

Minimalism

Our 25-year-old son is an avowed minimalist. About a year ago, our son massively downsized his “stuff,” explaining that he just felt freer with fewer material possessions “to deal with.” His minimalism is most obvious to us when he’s home and making coffee. He hand grinds the coffee beans and then uses a pour-over coffee maker to brew each cup. According to Melitta Group, the leading seller of non-electric coffee systems in the United States, young adults now use pour-over coffeemakers at twice the rate of the general population. They’ve replaced their electric coffee makers with these simple, minimalist devices.

Activity

You’ve probably noticed that Millennials and Gen Zers love to be active. They enjoy outdoorsy things like skiing, paddleboarding, and hiking. We even see this preference for activity in their social lives, which is one of the reasons for the rise of paint-and-sip businesses like Painting With a Twist and Pinot’s Palette, where participants create art while sipping wine. Twenty-somethings also adore activities like Escape Rooms, in which a group is locked in a room and has to use elements of the room to solve a series of puzzles, find clues, and escape the room within a set time limit.

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De-Stressing

Your 20-something kids probably take their de-stressing as seriously as they do their jobs. They’re into things like mindfulness and meditation programs like Calm and Headspace. Of course, there’s no shortage of these apps available for smartphones, all promising to help combat anxiety, improve sleep, and sharpen focus. Many of them have also embraced things like knitting and crocheting, with young people ages 18-34 learning these crafts at about twice the rate of those aged 35-54. According to a survey by the trade group Craft Yarn Council, they enjoy yarn crafts because it gives them a sense of accomplishment and helps them cope with stress.

Spending

Twenty-somethings don’t spend money frivolously. Instead, they’re thoughtful and intentional about spending decisions, seeing their spending as a way to weigh in on products, causes, and even issues that matter to them. Their mindful spending decisions are already making a difference in the marketplace, as we see with the rise of companies like Tom’s and Alex and Ani, that emphasize their social consciousness and commitment to “give back.” 

Balance

Perhaps trying to control things in an uncertain and unstable global world, this demographic actively seeks balance in all things. Sometimes called “clean-lifers,” today’s 20-somethings have strong ideals. They’re less tolerant and more skeptical than previous generations. They’re doing things like reducing their alcohol intake and rejecting recreational drugs. Whereas our generation seems to look at our daily workout as just one more thing on our to-do list, they see activity and fitness as an integral part of the holistic lifestyle they actively pursue.

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When Becca was home for Spring Break, I took her shopping (the classic mother/daughter bonding experience!). Then I set up a photo shoot for the two of us. It was partly because I needed some images for this post. But, honestly, it was mostly because I wanted to spend time with her. The older my kids get, the more important I think it is to listen to them and ask questions carefully. I’ve noticed that if my questions come across as critical in any way, my kids will shut down. (Maybe because kids of every age are hungry for their parents’ approval.) I think it’s important to understand and accept how different their generation is from ours, and I’ve learned that sometimes asking questions isn’t the best way to go about it! I started researching 20-somethings and decided to write this post so that I could understand them better without having to ask so many questions. As I seek to develop strong, close relationships with my adult children, I want them to know that I “get” where they’re coming from, even if I don’t really “get” it. 🙂

I’ve linked a few of my favorite resources for “parenting” adult kids! Click on any image for more information!

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Suzy Mighell

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17 Comments

    1. Wendy,
      Wow! That is so nice! We have similar personalities too. She is fun to be with and we laugh a lot when we’re together! Thank you for leaving such a sweet comment! xoxo Suzy

  1. Great post Suzy! This is my son to be sure! I am still working on my adult relationship with my daughter. We are very alike in personality which causes us to clash occasionally. She is growing (metaphorically) with her new job at a great rate and I want to understand what she does and support her. Sometimes tricky!
    Becca looks stunning in these photos, she has your lovely smile!

    1. Carole,
      Thank you so much! You are so right in that the ones who are most like us can be the most challenging. I try my best to be upfront with my kids and actually tell them “I’m trying.” Sometimes that softens them. Then usually I ask them how I can do a better job of supporting and blessing them. Sometimes they have an answer, and sometimes, not, but I think they appreciate it and look at my efforts differently if I just lay all of my cards on the table, so to speak. (Do they have that saying in the UK?!) Thank you for your kind words about my sweet girl. She is a joy! xoxo Suzy

  2. A great post with so many points on target! My three 20 somethings are all different flowers too. All financially independent and I’m so glad to be their mom. Your right..there is a lot more listening and less critiquing these days. I want to know everything and they don’t want to tell me everything either. Thats ok. Thanks for the post. Your daughter is lovely and looks like you!

    1. Brigit,
      Thank you for sharing and for your encouraging words! I agree, and have had a hard time weaning myself off of knowing everything! I try to keep some of my life a little mysterious, too. Hopefully, it makes me more interesting to them! LOL. You are so right. We have to come to a point of acceptance with just now knowing everything. It’s tough! Thank you for your sweet words about Becca! Do you really think she looks like me? That is so kind! Thanks for reading Empty Nest Blessed and for taking the time to leave such an insightful comment. xoxo Suzy

  3. What a great, insightful article! I’m sending it to my SIX twenty-somethings–4 daughters, one son-in-law and one son-in-law to be in TWO weeks!

    1. and forgot to say how drastically different ALL of them are! What a challenge every.single.day to figure out how to love them well. I’m learning to let the Holy Spirit be my guide!

      1. Wendy,
        As usual, you are a great example and inspiration to me! You do it so well. I know, I am amazed at how different each of my kids is as well. I think that’s why we really prefer to have them one at a time. When everyone’s together it’s fun, but I don’t feel like a do as good a job as a mom. Parenting adult kids takes concentration!!! Happy Wedding! xoxo Suzy

        1. I am glad to hear someone else say this, too! As a mother of 8, with 6 sons and daughters in law, it is fun and crazy when everyone is together, but I don’t feel like I’ve connected with anyone as well as one on one.
          Thanks for sharing!

          1. Anne, I couldn’t agree more! (BTW, my 80+ year old mom says the very same thing! Hugs to you! xoxo Suzy

  4. Good words and so accurate, Suzy! Thank you for your words of encouragement and for letting us all go along as you navigate these waters! Our kids are about the same age as yours. Isn’t it so fun watching them figure things out?

    1. Tammy,
      You are so sweet, Tammy! I’m grateful for your encouragement, too. It is SO FUN (and a little bit terrifying) watching them navigate things on their own. The absolute worst is when you see them heading for a problem, and you know you have to hold your tongue. That’s a toughie for me! How fun that your kids are the same age as mine. Ours are 25, 24 (married and wife 24 too), and 21. It’s hard to believe, but such a blessing to see them become the people the Lord means for them to be. Thanks so much for reading and for your comment!
      xoxo Suzy

  5. This is one of the most accurate post I think I’ve ever read and all my years of reading parenting articles. We have 21-year-old triplets and everything you said fits with this new generation of young adults that came out of our house. It’s fascinating watching them be so wise beyond her years regarding their bodies and nature and what’s important in life. I could not be more proud of all four of my kids we have a 28-year-old to who’s out on her own and is a Music major turned, Speech Therapist who makes wire wrapped jewelry that blows my mind as her other business. Her 21-year-old daughter is about to take time out from her art major and travel to Bali to become a yoga instructor and is A gluten-free vegan and has turned stomach problems into living a completely healthy lifestyle. When medicine failed her she did her research and has found her own solutions to feeling good. One of their brothers is a biology major who leads people into the wilderness and on backpacking trips and caving and climbing and loves every minute of it. Their other brother is majoring in emergency medical care in is an EMT on campus. It sure would be great to hear stories like yours and mine and your readers instead of all the bad news we hear. I think this generation is going to do a fabulous job of improving our world. I’m so excited to read more of your blog and have already enjoyed your Instagram photos. Y’all are pretty cute people.

    1. Lisa,
      Wow! Your comment just blew me away!!! Your kids sound amazing. I agree with you. This group is doing so many things right. Don’t you love that they seek balance in their lives? They have so much initiative and they are such go-getters! I’m so proud of each of mine too. They are all so different and they have such a strong sense of purpose. Thanks so much for reading Empty Nest Blessed and for your sweet words about Instagram! I’m so happy you’re here and I just LOVED your insightful comment! xoxo Suzy

  6. I feel like you looked into my home & observed my 20 something daughter. It’s like they’re teenagers all over again but with more knowledge. Annoyingly so at times. There’s such a thin line to walk sometimes. I’ve tried the being mysterious route, but then feel I’m being dishonest. Lead by example.
    Thank you for your insight . Now I know I’m not alone & going crazy.

    1. Janet,
      You are NOT crazy! These are challenging times as they differentiate (You might want to Google that term!) and become their own people. Mysterious isn’t dishonest, it’s just interesting! Press on, my friend. Once she gets through this, things will calm down, I promise! My older boys are a delight! Hugs! xoxo Suzy

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