How To Speak: Family

With two out of five households no longer fitting the traditional family mould, plus a sizeable backlash against 'perfect parenting', we explore how brands can recognise new opportunities and speak better to families of all shapes and sizes...

Family Affairs

Despite some recent reinterpretations of parenthood in popular culture, there’s still a long way to go. Millennial mums aren’t seeing themselves reflected in the pastel tones and outdated, angelic representations of motherhood. Lower income, working or single parents are hardly featured. And LGBTQ parents are not only misrepresented, they’re pretty much absent. The Bad Moms films didn’t quite cut it.

What parents now want for their kids (and for themselves) has fundamentally changed. As the next generation of millennial parents continue to arrive and shake things up, the status quo of parenthood is shifting. Family values are being reinvented, big time.

So how do we speak to modern families in the right way?

We set out to explore these changing attitudes towards family life and parenthood. As two out of five households no longer fit the ‘traditional’ family mould, and a welcome backlash against ‘perfect parenting’ shows no signs of slowing down, we’ll show brands how to recognise new opportunities – and speak better to families of all shapes and sizes.

Plotting Parenthood

The milestones that have shaped modern families…


Contraceptive pill available in the UK


World’s first IVF baby is born


Mumsnet launches


Netherlands becomes first country to legalise same-sex marriage


Gay couples can adopt children in the UK


Facebook launches


‘Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids’ Act passed in the US


Toys “R” Us’ Stockholm superstore goes gender-neutral


Same-sex marriage legalised in England, Wales and Scotland


Shared parental leave introduced for men


30 hours free childcare launches across UK


Increase in older mothers (significant rise of over-40s giving birth)

Five Key Shifts In Modern Parenting

So, where are we at? Well, 90 percent of all new parents are now millennials. And, with the number of millennial households having reached 16 million in the US alone (according to Pew Research), family-centric brands had better start taking note. Millennials reshaped how we think about work, leisure and the world around us – how will they redefine parenthood?

1. The new family unit – “we are with dog!”


A modern family comes in all shapes and sizes. LGBTQ parents, empty-nesters, single parents, adults living with their parents, cohabiting couples with no kids (and a pet dog instead) – non-traditional families are growing. Stereotypical depictions simply won’t cut it anymore; what even is ‘family’ anyway?

2. Mum and dad remodelled


Men are bouncing back from being ‘distant dads’ and female empowerment is driving women into increasingly diverse identities (not just ‘carers’ or ‘mums’). These fundamental gender shifts are major drivers for modern families. Working mums and involved dads, always-on screen time and always-present parents; the childhood experience is changing dramatically.

3. Optimised upbringings


71 percent of parents now turn to the internet to help raise their children. Millennial parents are better informed than any other generation before them. Security, traffic, strangers, media concerns; it’s no wonder kids don’t play outside anymore. This, coupled with the fact parents now spend more time with their kids, makes for ever-optimised childhoods. From quality and mindful time, to creative and educational time – to fitting in as many life changing experiences before bedtime – millennial parents want it all.

4. Purposeful parenting


The hunt for honesty and transparency that typify millennial consumers also extends into their parental purchasing habits. New sustainable business models have emerged, enabling them to buy consciously for their children. From recycled shoes, to never ending streams of ‘no-nasties’ food; raising daddy’s little eco warrior has never been so easy.

5. No more perfection


The endless sharing of family life online has opened up a backlash against images of perfection. A new wave of influencers embrace honest, realistic and relaxed approaches to parenting. It’s finally OK to be flawed. And it’s finally OK to keep your pre-parent identity – as the Mother Pukka blog celebrates: ‘For People Who Happen To Be Parents’.

Non-traditional family units are growing and stereotypical depictions of parenthood simply won’t cut it anymore; what even is ‘family’ anyway?

Brands Exploring Modern Families

Multifaceted Mums

Guess what? Mums are funny, career-driven, bold, flawed, selfish and nurturing


Dads have evolved from hapless to hero, from doofus Dad to sensitive soul

Keeping It Real

Honest portrayals of real people, real situations and very real family chaos

Power-Parent Influencers

Feel the force of the parent influencer, from warts-and-all parenthood, to aspirational family time

A Sense Of Self

Becoming ‘mum’ or ‘dad’ doesn’t mean losing your hobbies, interests or style

How To Speak Family: Key Takeouts

Here’s a quick toolkit on how to speak family in 2019 and beyond:

  1. Be representative: This one is simple: reflect and celebrate the diversity of modern parents. Just do it (they will reward you for it).
  2. Big up the beauty of chaos: Vom, toilet-training, attempting to sit down for a ‘nice family meal’ – in those moments of chaos, beautiful things can happen (we promise).
  3. Embrace family-friendly raves: Help families spend more time together by creating shared experiences. Hint: win them over by collaborating with their favourite brands.
  4. Tap into their sense of purpose: Make it easy for them to care for the planet, as well as their child.
  5. Stretch time with tech-convenience: Order in, set up a child ISA, pick child-friendly activities – help them focus on quality time by making their lives seamless.
  6. Connect to community: Hook up millennial parents with other likeminded parents and help them feel part of the local, as well as global, community.
  7. Encourage play for both kids and adults:…after all, creativity is what’s going to save us when the robots take over!