The grandparent's guide to Millennials

Created date

March 2nd, 2018
A woman takes a selfie with a millennial

A Millennial takes a selfie with her grandmother.

In 2015, the U.S. Census Bureau announced that for the first time, the Baby Boom generation (75.4 million people born between 1946 and 1964) had been outnumbered.

The 83.1 million individuals born roughly between 1982 and 2000 now account for more that one-quarter of the U.S. population. Collectively, they are known as the Millennial generation or simply, Millennials. If you are a grandparent, there’s a good chance your grandchildren are Millennials.

What shapes a generation?

Like all generations, Millennials have been shaped by world events. Baby Boomers had the Cold War and Vietnam. Millennials had 9/11 and the longest war in American history, Afghanistan.

Perhaps more than world events, however, Millennials have been significantly influenced by the rapid advance of technology.

When many of their parents and grandparents were struggling to learn how to send and receive emails, they asked Millennials for help. After all, this is the generation that grew up with the Internet and cell phones. It’s second nature to them.

While older generations had three, maybe four, choices of programs on television, Millennials grew up with hundreds of cable TV channels, giving way in the late ’90s and early 2000s to virtually endless streaming options. This vast number of choices almost guarantees that you and your grandchildren are not watching the same television programs.

What’s more, there’s a good chance you’ve never even heard of the program considered No. 1 with Millennials. Rick and Morty, an animated comedy on Cartoon Network/Adult Swim, scores big with 18-34-year-olds. Interestingly, it’s about the intergalactic adventures of mad scientist Rick and his teenage grandson Morty.

Older generations devoured newspapers and periodicals for information. They watched Edward R. Murrow or Walter Cronkite for news of the day. By and large, everyone got their news from the same handful of sources.

Millennials, on the other hand, have access to the entire world of information with just a few taps on their mobile phones; however, the veracity of that information is often questionable.

The world event that had the most direct impact on the Millennial generation was the Great Recession. Just as they were entering college and the workforce, the economy floundered and jobs, particularly entry-level jobs were scarce. Without a good job or income, it’s no wonder that Millennials moved back home with their parents.

Now as the economy is once again robust, they are finally seeing better job opportunities and greater prosperity. What, if any, impact that late start will have on their career trajectories and earning potential in the future remains to be seen.


Millennials are perceived as fragile, leading some to call them the “snowflake generation.”

But really, can we blame them? Is it their fault they were coddled as children?

Raised by members of the “Me generation,” Millennials were repeatedly told how special they were. They have shelves full of participation trophies. Their so-called “helicopter parents” hovered over their every move to guide them through a stress-free, emotionally stable and financially prosperous life.

But before we pass too much judgment, did Millennial fourth graders demand all those participation trophies? Is it fair to expect a generation raised by “helicopter parents” to suddenly make a clean break and go boldly into the future on their own?

More than anything else, Millennials are maligned for their rampant narcissism. Raised on reality TV and captivated by social media platforms like Instagram and Snapchat, is it any wonder that the generation that invented selfies suffers from narcissist personality disorder three times more than people over the age of 65?

Generation gap

There has always been a generation gap—that is, a lack of understanding between younger generations and older ones, but making sense of Millennials seems especially difficult.

Millennials are so different from previous generations that marketing experts are scratching their heads trying to figure out how to pitch traditional products to this misunderstood generation.

For example, how can builders and real estate agents sell houses to a generation seemingly content to live with their parents well into adulthood?

How are automakers going to sell cars to a generation that “Ubers” everywhere?

A Harvard University poll showed that 48% of Millennials believe the American Dream is dead. This is significant because, eventually, it will be Millennials who will lead the nation forward. How will they lead and what will they strive for if not the American Dream?

The answer is anybody’s guess, but one thing is certain—there will be millions of Millennial selfies on Instagram documenting the journey.