5 common complaints that Gen Z brings to their therapist

It’s no surprise that Gen Z differs significantly from previous generations, bringing a unique set of issues into their therapy sessions regarding their parents. According to therapists who specialize in working with Gen Z clients, five common themes frequently arise during these discussions. These topics reflect the distinct experiences and challenges faced by this generation as they navigate their relationships with their parents.



While Generation X parents generally show greater acceptance of diverse s..xual and gender identities compared to previous generations, some Gen Z youths still feel misunderstood or unaccepted by their parents. 

California-based therapist Torri Efron noted that instances of parents making homophobic jokes can make young people feel alienated and unsafe to express their true selves at home.

More Than Pronouns


This environment can prevent young individuals from feeling secure enough to discuss their gender and s..xual identities openly with their parents. 

Efron emphasizes that acceptance is not a one-off declaration but a continuous practice. It involves actively using people’s chosen pronouns, avoiding assumptions about their identities, and demonstrating inclusivity regularly.

Common Grounds


Despite the unique challenges Generation Z faces, the underlying issues in their relationships with parents often stem from common themes like communication difficulties, boundary setting, and honesty. 

Addressing Family Fears Through Dialogue


These problems are frequently rooted in various fears—fear of judgment, failure, harm, or even change, as Efron explains. Addressing these fears through open dialogue can help alleviate some of the tension and foster a healthier family dynamic.

Dependency on Parental Help


Technology has significantly improved communication between Generation Z and their parents, allowing for more frequent and in-depth interactions. 

This connectivity enables parents to stay informed about their children’s lives and often strengthens familial bonds.

Real-Time Parenting


Melanie McNally shared insights from her therapy sessions, noting that some clients are in constant communication with their parents, seeking advice on issues ranging from friendships to academic assignments. 

She mentioned instances where students share Google Docs with their parents for real-time feedback on essays during class.

Too Much Communication?


Despite the positive results of using technology, this constant availability can foster a dependency on parental intervention, reducing young people’s chances to tackle challenges independently. 

McNally observes that Gen Zers are not learning to navigate mistakes on their own or to problem-solve without parental input. 

Safety vs. Independence


This situation is often exacerbated by parents’ ability to monitor their children’s locations and activities through smartphones, which, while reassuring for parents concerned about safety, can hinder their children’s growth toward independence.

Pandemic Isolation and Its Impact on Gen Z


The isolation caused by the pandemic has intensified these issues, limiting Gen Z’s time spent away from family and engaging in activities typical for their developmental stage, such as driving, working, or socializing with peers.

Differences in Food and Body Image Perspectives


Torri Efron highlights a prevalent issue among her Generation Z clients: their complex relationship with food and body image, which often clashes with their parents’ views. Parents might not fully grasp the concept of body positivity or may struggle with biases like fatphobia themselves. 

Tensions Over Eating Habits


Efron shared that some teens report their parents encourage restrictive diets, which can be harmful, especially during adolescence. Conversely, some young people are influenced by unrealistic portrayals of bodies they see online and may express desires to emulate these images through dieting. 

This divergence in perspectives between parents and teens can lead to misunderstandings and conflicts.

Open Discussions on Body Image


One effective approach is for families to discuss these issues openly and without judgment, helping to bridge the gap in understanding each other’s viewpoints. Sharing personal experiences can also be beneficial. 

For example, a parent might discuss their decision to unfollow certain social media accounts that negatively impacted their body image, demonstrating to their children that it’s okay to take similar actions to protect their own self-esteem.

The Emotional Toll of Dietary Decisions


A recent study conducted by Ketchum has shed light on the stress that food choices generate for Gen Z. In a survey involving 2,000 participants, a significant 61% reported feeling pressured from a young age to use their dietary choices as a means of expressing their identity and beliefs. 

Additionally, 63% of respondents believe that their food selections should reflect their health, values, and political stances. 

Food Guilt


According to the findings, Gen Z is more prone than other generations to experience negative emotions related to food, such as guilt, anxiety, and stress, and they are the least likely to report a positive relationship with food.

Social Media for Food Inspiration 


Despite the challenges associated with social media use, including 67% of survey respondents expressing concern over excessive time spent on these platforms and 58% linking social media to negative body image perceptions, it remains a pivotal source of food inspiration for Gen Z. 

Following Food Trends


The survey conducted by Ketchum highlights that a significant 70% of Gen Z individuals follow food influencers on social media for culinary ideas and are more inclined to trust food trends that gain viral status.

Changing Attitudes Towards Education


Contrary to past generations, where parents might have expressed concern over their children’s lack of interest in academic performance, the dynamic appears reversed with Generation Z. 

Academic Pressure Reversal 


Therapist Torri Efron has observed a notable change; it’s now the children who feel the need to excel academically to get into college, while their parents encourage them to relax and handle stress more effectively.

Gen Z’s Academic Struggles  


Although this change is generally positive, it sometimes results in misunderstandings. Children may feel their parents do not grasp the heightened pressures of modern education and the challenges of entering today’s competitive job market. 

Feeling Alienated


This disconnect can lead to feelings of alienation and frustration on both sides, complicating family dynamics and increasing emotional stress for the children.

Screen Time Conflict 


One of the most common challenges for Generation Z is managing their relationship with technology, particularly their smartphones, which often becomes a source of conflict with their parents.

They’re worried about how much time their children spend on their devices and the type of content they are accessing. 

The Consequences of Monitoring Phones


Efforts by parents to control and monitor their children’s phone usage can sometimes have unintended consequences. Torri Efron noted that using phone monitoring apps tends to drive a wedge between parents and children. 

Secret Lives


Young people might resort to deceptive behaviors such as lying, using others’ phones, or finding alternative communication methods to maintain their privacy and keep up with their social circles online, potentially leading to them leading a double life.

Family Rules and Fitting In


These dynamics can make children feel they cannot be authentic around their parents. Conversely, adhering to strict parental guidelines might disconnect them from their friends, making them feel out of the loop and isolated.

Having Screen Time Conversations


Efron advocates for a dialogue about screen time, where parents articulate their concerns and also listen to their children’s perspectives, even if it doesn’t change the parental stance. 

She suggests that it’s safer for children to watch questionable content under parental guidance than to do so secretly, allowing for open discussion and processing together.

Breaking the Cycle of Smartphone Dependency


Melanie McNally, a psychologist and author, emphasizes the need for parents to acknowledge their role in modeling smartphone behavior. 

She highlighted the addictive nature of smartphones and pointed out that while parents often criticize their children’s usage, it’s important to remember that adults have significantly contributed to this dependency. This recognition should come with a commitment to help Gen Z adjust their habits effectively.

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