Not long ago I visited with a bride-to-be and her mother at a Metropolitan Bride exposition, a.k.a., bridal show, where prospective brides and their entourage have the opportunity to become familiar with many of the accoutrements of today’s $15,000-$20,000 wedding. During our conversation about the importance of preparing not just for the wedding day, but also for the marriage, the mother assured me that her marriage was just fine, but she thought it would be a good idea for her daughter and future son-in-law to attend one of our workshops. Without a moment’s hesitation the daughter looked at the mother and said, “Why don’t you and dad come with us? I think it would be fun.”
This bride, like many of the Millennials, likes her parents. She enjoys their company and cares about what they think. Sometimes known as the “boomerang generation,” many of the Millennials have actually spent a considerable amount of time with their parents, even returning home after completing college until they married or got their finances in order. Although their values and lifestyle choices may differ somewhat, they actually like their parents and want to “hang out with them.” In fact, hanging out with friends and family is one of the characteristics of this generation. (Remember, the older portion of this cohort regularly gathered in each other’s homes on Thursday nights to watch Friends together.)
Could it be that the children raised by parents who rarely missed their child’s soccer game continue to desire their influence, cheering them on from the sidelines as they embark on the adventure of marriage and commitment? Is it possible that they feel just a little anxious about this big step in their lives and want mom and dad nearby? While I don’t have the data to support this assertion, I have a number of anecdotal accounts from Baby Boomer friends of mine who were invited to accompany their young adult children on camping trips and other similar adventures where they were the only representative of their generation. “Imagine,” they mused, “they wanted us to come along and hang out with their friends—and not just to cook. They actually wanted our company.”
Sadly, there are many young adults who don’t have cheerleaders. Not all Baby Boomer parents are invited to join their adult children on their outings. Given the dismal statistics about the marital dissolution rate of Baby Boomers, a significant number of younger adults don’t have any healthy marriage role models. They simply don’t know any couple whose marriage or relationship they would like to emulate. Perhaps this is one reason today’s generation is delaying marriage until their late 20s or foregoing it altogether. It’s not as though they’re suspending intimate relationships; most have them. They’re simply postponing the wedding or giving up on marriage. After all, they reason, “You can’t get divorced, if you don’t get married.”
While we could bemoan the state of affairs for families today, a much more positive and hopeful option exists. Baby Boomers can do many things today to promote the health and happiness of their adult children … and grandchildren. Consider some of these options:
“My mom told me that my boyfriend and I should take this class because she and her boyfriend had benefited so much from it.”
“My dad signed me and my fiancé up for this workshop because he said it helped him and my stepmom so much.”
As these real life comments overheard in our office demonstrate, parents don’t have to be perfect to influence their children. Even parents who have experienced divorce can help their children build a strong foundation for a healthy marriage.
I recently heard about a MOPS group (Mothers of Preschoolers) where the older adults in the church it was held “adopted” the young moms in the program in terms of providing meaningful support for their twice-monthly meetings.
“They’re wonderful,” raved one young mother of three under three. They valet park your car when you arrive. They help you carry your things and your children into the building. They provide excellent child care during the meeting and they clean up after the meal so that you have a clean dish to take home.” When older adults provide assistance to young parents like this they make it easy for them to participate and gain encouragement from others.
We all have a sphere of influence. It may be our church or a civic-minded group. It could be in our neighborhood or apartment complex. It might be in our workplace. No matter where we are, we can advocate for the importance of relationship education for teens, singles, and couples. We can encourage the leadership to offer their building as a host site. We can invite others to attend and promote participation.
Baby Boomers were once known for their focus on social change. This is the generation that joined the Peace Corp, participated in marches for important causes, and got serious about the environment. There’s still time for them to effect change in today’s young families. Next week we focus on additional actions they might take and the personal benefits Baby Boomers experience from being involved with this important cause.