Exhale and Paradigm Shift For Youth And Their Families

Filed Under: Youth & Family


Mary McIlrath

Senior Vice President, C+R Alum

First, the exhale: Have you put on “real” pants after a year of Zoom calls in cut-off sweats? If the answer is “no,” you’re in good company. Our advice is to not worry; and while you’re at it, buy bigger pants. Case in point: Skinny jeans are now “out” and high-waisted, pleated, loose comfy jeans are “in.”

Summer is coming, and you can walk and bike back to your healthy figure. In the meantime, YouthBeat® is a judgement-free zone for you as well as for the youth and families we serve. All those extra snacks and treats you let your kids eat during the pandemic, and the toys you bought to bring them a sense of joy and excitement? Totally OK.

The past year has been one of deprivation in terms of social contact and consistent quality education, as well as inundation of information, masks, and safety protocols. Despite parents’ best efforts to protect their children from current events, youth’s top fears in 2020 were a family member dying, followed closely by a family member getting sick.* Not so atypical as an intangible fear for young kids, but a real and new concern for tweens and teens.

Now, families in the United States are entering a phase of new hope. Adult vaccinations have achieved critical mass; those reluctant to get them are sort of old news. Youth vaccinations will take more time. Remember when you went to school to line up for booster shots or the polio vaccine? That’s what today’s kids will remember, someday, for their first COVID shot. 

Now, the paradigm shift:

We’re entering a wartime phase of economics. The “stimmy” checks are spent, though the child-specific benefits in the U.S. may continue for some time. This is what is called a “V-shaped” economic curve,  where the economy bounces back quickly to levels before a crisis and growth continues at the same rate as before. On the other hand, we may face a more “K-shaped” recovery in which some economic sectors recover, and others don’t. It’s as if Mother Nature hit “pause” on her “Earth” video game, and we need to get a grip and start over.

What this means for youth and families is what we’re calling the “Great Reinvention.” This “pause” is a good time for personal and brand self-reflection and thinking about:

  • Social Justice: What is your brand doing to support equity? Do you have credibility to do so, or do you need to establish it? Your young consumers expect this from you and will hold you accountable for any missteps.
  • Finances: Did you know that you can buy a flight with installment payments already? Virtual currencies, payment plans before and after product receipt, and easy virtual funds shifting—all of these will define how Gen Z and Gen Alpha think about paying for all of their goods and services.
  • Mental Health: Re-entry into the world that exists now, not normal, but more stilted and wary in the short term, will be taxing on youth and parents alike. What is your brand doing to help ease the transition emotionally? 
  • Education: What is the role of in-person vs. online instruction, especially at higher education levels? How will this impact job applicants in the next 10-20 years and beyond?


In the inventive youth spirit of “anything goes,” we encourage your brand to acknowledge and embrace  hardships and get creative with how to address them. It’s important to understand the values young consumers and their parents are seeking. It’s a brave new world in 2021 and beyond, and we can help you be on the cutting edge. Reach out to YouthBeat® if you need an assist!

*YouthBeat® Total Year 2020

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