Parents tell us the advice they wish they’d had in their twenties

‘Don’t always go for the good-looking charmers – give a few ugly men a chance’

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There’s a formula when it comes to advice for 20-somethings: go to university, get a job, try and settle down by the time you’re 30.

Our parents were told it by their parents, and in turn they’ll be tempted to tell us the exact same thing. But what would they actually want to hear, in hindsight, if they were young adults now?

We decided to ask some 40, 50 and 60-somethings what advice they wished they’d been given in their twenties – here’s what they had to say.

“I wish I’d travelled more. All 20-somethings should interrail and island hop.

“Travel the world before you have any actual serious commitments – like mortgages, relationships and families.” – Lena, 54

Lena in the '80s

Lena in the early ’80s

“I wish I’d chatted more to my parents about their lives.” – Linda, 52

“If I could tell my younger self anything it would be to go with your gut instinct, always.

“Also, put your girls first – boys will come and go but 99.999 per cent of the time your girls will have your back. Unless they decide to stab you in it, of course.” – Judy, 47

Jo in her 20s

Jo in her 20s

“To fully appreciate everything I had and how very lucky I was. I had no idea life could ever be difficult, unfair or frightening” – Jo, 60

“If you want a good job, you’re going to have to suck it up and move away from home.

“Understand that there’s more to life than football – and that sideburns won’t attract the girls!” Mike, 63

Mike in his fourth year of uni

Mike in his fourth year of uni, 1976

“I would tell myself to concentrate at school, so that I could go to uni – I never furthered my education past high school and left with no qualifications.

“I wish I went to uni, moved away and so on, especially so I could mix with a wider group of people and not be so stuck in one place.

“I would tell myself to not start smoking too!” – Sian, 48

“Get out of any abusive relationships. Keep up your friendships.  Travel more and live abroad.  And when you move out of home, don’t move back.

“Looking back, I wish I’d travelled more, sung more and lived abroad more.” – Lindsay, 57 

Lindsay aged 27 in Corfu

Lindsay aged 27 in Corfu

“Only trust yourself and not everyone else, there’ll always be someone waiting to backstab you.” – Rita, 56

“I wish I’d have travelled around and done a few different jobs. I always wanted to go to Bangladesh.” – Paul, 51

Paul when he was 24

“Something I was told in my late twenties by my then-boss in Hong Kong, who was a very blunt New Yorker from the Bronx, was: ‘Don’t get into a pissing match with a skunk.’

“By which time, I’d wasted a lot of time over the years in heated arguments I was never going to win with unreasonable people.” – Stephen, 59

“Listen more and talk less. Grab learning opportunities while you are still young enough to remember things.

“Don’t think that you’re invincible and immune to danger, and think through the repercussions of your actions.

“Be polite and keep cool – even when you’re being insulted!” – Nicky, 56


Nicky at 25

“I wish I’d been less bothered about what people thought of me, and I wish I’d been more adventurous in my decisions.” Keith, 47

“If you’re not happy at work, don’t be afraid to move on. Don’t hate your body – it’s the best it’s ever going to be.

“Also, just accept that some hair doesn’t look good with a middle parting.” Ann, 59

Ann when she was 26

“Try lots of new things, take up new hobbies and meet new people. Don’t be afraid of failure and not being the best.

“Give a few ugly men a chance – don’t always go for the good looking charmers!” – Sue, 57

“I’d probably tell myself to party harder.” – Stephen, 47

“Advice for people in their twenties now: take up ski-ing sooner, travel more, be excited by life, and stop dancing naked on rugby club bars with flaming newspapers up your arse.

“Advice I wish I’d been given: start skiing sooner, travel and live abroad more –  and dance naked on more rugby club bars with flaming newspapers up your arse.” – Des, 63

Des, 27, by the Aegean Sea

Des, 27, by the Aegean Sea