Gen Alphas are being raised at a time when digital has completely revolutionized the parenting landscape. Access to information and online communities has super-charged the sheer amount of information, expectations, and products available to parents — along with the associated stress, pressure, and stigmas. Alphas are being raised primarily by Gen Xers and older Millennials, but it’s the latter generation that is really changing the parenting game. For Millennial parents, parenthood and digital culture are utterly intertwined.
Logging into niche parenting sites from Frolo (single parents) to Sugaberry (mothers of color), and following parenting influencers like Karrie Locher and Big Little Feelings, Millennials are going deeper than ever down the digital rabbit hole of parenting advice and product recs. While previous generations of parents leaned on their generation’s leading expert — think Dr. Spock — Millennials cherry-pick from a vast sea of parenting personalities, all with their own tips, tricks, and hacks, as they find what best fits for their family.
So, not only are Millennial parents experts about evergreen parenting concerns, from infant nutrition to toxins in toys — they’re also blazing trails at the forefront of early childhood development theories, and trying out a slew of brands and products along the way.
The diligence Millennials bring to parenting their Alpha kids is at least partially because they see their kids as an extension of themselves. This isn’t an entirely new trend: Gen X parents dressed their kids in irreverent Nirvana onesies. But the stakes have been raised further as parenthood has become increasingly “cool” (and Instagrammable!) over the last decade in urban centers and the ‘burbs alike. In fact, the proportion of people that feel “parent” is an “extremely” or “very” important part of their identity rose from 71% in 2018 to 80% in 2020, according to the American Family Survey.
After living through the first wave of hyper-involved and over-protective helicopter parents, “peerents,” and the like, Millennials are leaning into their role as parent to their child rather than “friend” — and, for them, that means being a hyper-informed and conscientious guide.
Much has been made of the “Millennial aesthetic” that’s overwhelmed Instagram and permeated DTC brands with its pastels and serif fonts. Now, Millennials are remaking the aesthetics of parenting to fit their tastes. For this gen of parents, princess sparkles and baby blues are a bit, well, unsophisticated. Instead, they’re seeking the sort of refinement they sought from brands in their pre-baby lives.
Kids apparel brand Kate Quinn, for example, uses lux materials like organic cotton and bamboo in gender-neutral hues with precious names like “twilight mauve.” Dubbed “the Supreme of baby clothes” by The New York Times, product drops of the latest blankie or onesie can spark an online shopping frenzy not unlike that of limited-edition streetwear.
Before you think this feels frivolous, consider that for Millennial parents, consumerism equals emotional empowerment. Previous generations of parents often felt like they lost themselves in a sea of plastic toys. But Millennial parents are able to parent in a way that’s more aligned with their personal beliefs, perhaps enabling them to avoid the kind of existential crises sometimes associated with parenthood. Holding on to one’s own tastes and preferences goes beyond product, too; 75% of parents now agree it’s important to share the entertainment they love with their children, according to a recent WarnerMedia study.
This much is clear: In today’s parenting landscape, if you want to reach Gen Alpha consumers, you should be considering how your brand can embody their parents’ tastes and values. “The next generation of kids are going to have very similar tastes to that of their Millennial parents when it comes to brands,” Heather Dretsch, an assistant professor of marketing at North Carolina State University, told Vox Media last year.
Beyond minimalist pastel packaging, Gen Alpha’s parents — and therefore Alphas themselves — are seeking out brands and products that are educational (66%), sustainable (43%), and locally-made (26%), according to our study. Gen Alphas are already conscious, informed consumers at a strikingly young age. According to Jennifer, mom to three girls aged 12, 14, and 17, it’s her daughters who are driving conversations around the ethics of fast fashion. “They are extremely concerned about who makes their clothes, and why their clothes cost $4.99,” she told us. “They don’t want to wear something made by a nine-year-old in a forced labor factory scenario overseas.”
The Compassion Generation
There’s another way Millennial parents are aligning their children with their own worldview: values. Millennial parents place a huge emphasis on emotional fluency, something many feel their own Baby Boomer parents lacked. “My dad didn’t talk about his feelings very much,” said James, 42. Meanwhile, Jess, 37, told us that conflict in her household growing up taught her how not to raise her kids. “I talk about myself a lot where I’m like, ‘I’m sorry, I’m frustrated, I didn’t mean it,’ … I’m really trying to teach my kids that it’s okay to talk about feelings,” she told us.
Under the nurturing guidance of their parents, Alphas are set to be a more empathetic and compassionate generation. According to our study, Alphas with Millennial parents were most likely to identify as “loving” (25% vs. 19% of Alphas with Xer parents) and “kind” (18% vs. 13% of Xer parents). So, in the same way that Millennials championed sustainability, and Gen Z brought mental health into the spotlight, Alphas will likely lead the charge in making compassion a key issue — and something they’ll be looking for in brands.
Compassion is permeating Alphas’ lives from other angles, too. According to parents we spoke with around the country, schools are stepping up to prioritize kindness and emotional self-awareness to positive effect. Case in point: A recent study in the journal Pediatrics indicates that bullying in schools may be on the decline. Parents agree that bullying seems to be less of a problem. “If some kids are different, they’re embracing those differences, they’re not pointing them out in a mean or belittling way,” said Rosanna, 39.
We could see a future where Gen Alphas attend summer camps based around social-emotional learning and kindness, in the same way that kids today learn archery or drama. Gen Xer parents are especially enthusiastic about their Alpha children feeling emotionally safe, since many Xers report feeling that they themselves were raised to be “seen but not heard.” Xer parents’ efforts seem to be working out: 42% of Alphas agree, “adults should listen to children more.”
What This Means for Brands
Gen Alpha’s parents are information sponges — they research everything they buy, and trust recommendations that come from their digital and IRL parent communities.
Brands and products that align with the values and aesthetics of Millennial parents will continue to resonate with Alphas.
Compassion will become the new go-to brand value among Alphas. Consider how this emerging consumer value changes the landscape for your brand.