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Modern Family

Family relationships have become a deep and meaningful focus for young adults.

For many young people, the conversation with family around the Thanksgiving table (or around the family dinner table for those outside the U.S.) will look a little different this year. That’s because of two factors that changed significantly during the pandemic that are redefining how young adults engage with their families. First, young people became even closer to their families, and second, they have become better communicators.

Incredibly Close

Many of the young adults we spoke with during our Life Renewed research this year were already close to their families, but the pandemic tightened their bonds. And for those who were less close at the start, they came to value their family more as their support system and as friends. These deep and meaningful connections, forged in the crucible of the pandemic, will be lasting.

“With my family, we were already close, but I became closer with my sister because she was home more. We bonded.” – Penelope, 20, France

Having the time to spend together was the common catalyst for this shift. Time that would have previously been spent with friends, who many were unable to visit in person, was shifted to family, who were in their “bubble” and often in the same house. As life slowed down, parents, children, and siblings began to devote more time to each other. Friends weren’t devalued in the process, but family grew significantly in importance. Coming out of the pandemic, young adults say they will continue to prioritize these relationships.

“The most important thing is family. We appreciate each other a lot more. [In Denmark] children are usually in daycare for 30 hours a week from a very young age. Now I can I have my son with me because I work from home, it’s been a good thing. We’ve started to prioritize time with our families and make time with our families more.” – Stephan, 30, Denmark

Real Talk

While young adults are highly skilled at digital communication and can tap out a text message at light speed, having a heart-to-heart face-to-face was a challenge to many who prefer to have a screen as a buffer. They were forced to pick up this important communication skill during the past 18 months in and out of lockdown. They learned how to better convey their wants, needs, and opinions with others—in person and in real time.

“My family has a great relationship, and we talk all the time, but we got better at learning how to express what we needed. It was me advocating for myself in adulthood more than I did when I was a teenager.” – Paige, 24, NY

Many young people were stuck in close quarters with their families for an extended period, and, unsurprisingly, arguments arose. However, unable to simply avoid the person they were upset with, they quickly realized they had to learn to talk it out and resolve their issues. This newfound skill, coupled with their focus on mental and emotional health, may make Gen Zs the generation with the highest EQ (emotional intelligence). In addition, this ability to have difficult conversations with their family members likely contributed to their bonding and deepening relationships.

“We had to stay four weeks together in my parents’ house, which was kind of difficult, but we figured it out. We were forced to understand each other. Normally I’d just say I didn’t want to talk about it and go and see some friends, but that was not possible. We had to discuss, we had to talk to each other.” – Annika, 21, Germany

Catering To New Traditions

Family time isn’t only for the high days and holidays according to young adults. The deep and lasting bonds that they forged in the pandemic means that families are gathering more frequently out of choice rather than tradition. Advertisers should take note of the shift in importance of this relationship. While they will continue to value friends and time with their peers during their early adult years, their family is also a key focus and should not be forgotten.

Just as marketers and advertisers eventually caught on to the opportunity to capitalize on “Friendsgiving” and Millennials’ desire to recognize the significance of friends with special gifts, cards, and celebrations, a similar opportunity has come among Gen Zs to help them recognize and celebrate their relationships with their families and certain family members who have become increasingly special.

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