Before this pandemic the anxiety and pressures teens were feeling were increasing every year. (See depressing numbers below.) I’m entering my 5th decade of working with teenagers so I’ve seen this escalation up close. Gen Z (your kids) are surveying differently than previous generations. Your kids are different from how you grew up.
Then a pandemic hit. Life has changed. Growing up Gen Z is going to be even more different.
What this pandemic has gifted us is a break. Maybe a reset. A break in the scheduling of life (too often overscheduled) that was a cause for the anxiety. Even as the unknown fears of a pandemic, all of the financial stressors, and the stress of future plans that may not ever happen are causing a new kind of anxiety.
Prediction: The simplicity of this time will be remembered way more than this anxiety.
Suddenly (literally) there became time for family games, cooking lessons, changing-a-flat-tire lessons, regular family meals, and family boredom. Are siblings even getting along better?
Prediction: These are all gifts which will be remembered fondly by your teen. These memories are going to form them as adults, and I believe for the better. They weren’t going to get these memories without a pandemic.
Are you finding that you are enjoying your children a bit more?
Prediction: Teens will be less emotionally overwhelmed. Teens are still hormone factories but with the crazy-busyness of the before life removed (hopefully for some time) they will be just regular emotional instead of overwhelmed emotional on top of regular emotional.
Tweens and teens are finding that they have more choices over their lives and they are liking that. The super-structured life of before only allowed room for them to choose within the lines of the structure.
Teens are also taking more chances. Again, the super-structured life didn’t allow room for this. The downtime is giving them a chance to try new things. This is building resiliency in your teen. Teens are learning that they have some control of their own lives as well as the ability to handle disruptions and failures. They are learning their resiliency while in the safety of your home and the safety of your support.
Plus you are all coming together as a family to figure out “how to be here” during this time of “we’ve never been here before.” All of you are feeling your abilities and resiliency as you figure this out along the way. All of you are realizing your resiliency—together.
Prediction: Resilient teens will be able to handle life’s bigger conflicts better. Those big conflicts that happen when they are grown and away from you. Also notice how much more regular-day stuff they are able to do without your help.
This mish-mash of education created has been loved. No longer is learning keeping to a school schedule of standards of learning demands to complete the required tests at the end of the year. Suddenly education got creative and interesting. Websites were discovered. Parenting blogs full of education ideas were discovered. Education took place online yet also inside the house and outside the house. Interests were peaked and then studied more deeply. The enjoyment of learning happened.
Prediction: Public education may be forever changed. (My prayer since the beginning of this!) Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York and the Bill Gates Foundation have announced a partnership to “reimagine education in the post-COVID era.” Source. Those are some big names to make this happen! As expected the teacher’s union is already fighting this. Education has been given a chance to reboot. Let’s pray that this does happen.
Church is going to change also. Like public school education we’ve been building and teacher-to-student stuck. Digital church is not the change though. The Church was meant to be a gathering of people to worship together. We have been given an opportunity to better serve this new culture that has been abandoning church over the past 20 years. Changes will also come to youth ministry. Finally.
Prediction: How we gather to worship together is going to look differently when the church doors open again. Lots of pastors are reimagining this right now (and thankfully sharing through the internet) and there will be many new ideas tried out. Some of those ideas will succeed and some of those ideas will fail. But church as we knew it will be forever changed. Unless the leadership of churches do not recognize this opportunity.
Are you finding it somewhat easier to establish some sort of family worship/Bible time in your schedule? Maybe this is because you as a family have more time together. Maybe your Sunday morning “digital worship” time lends perfectly to this. Maybe the internet is full of resources you never searched for before. Maybe if this has been awkward before it is still awkward now but everything you have done as a family during this pandemic time has been awkward so you keep trying anyway.
Prediction: You have enjoyed these family Bible times more than you ever imagined and will find a way to keep this practice even as the schedule starts to fill up again. You will also realize how capable you really are at passing on your faith.
Teens have seen empty store shelves. Teens have seen this before in Great Depression pictures or in pictures from Moscow when communism ended there. But now they have experienced empty shelves.
Prediction: I’m not sure yet but personally experiencing such scarcity is going to shape them. Maybe like their great grandparents who lived through the Great Depression and continued to live in scarcity for the rest of their lives.
I already predicted this before the stay-at-home orders and mask rules were common because masks were already becoming Instagrammable and not for reasons due to “the rona.” It was fashion and a response to facial recognition technology.
Prediction: Wearing of masks will become normalized. Shaking of hands will lessen. There will be a defined before-and-after of how we relate to each other. I’m not sure if we will miss the before or appreciate the after.
My guess is your teen is sleeping more. And sleeping better. That sleeping better part is a gift even as the sleeping more part could be a sign of depression. Sleep before was not enough and not as restful as needed.
Prediction: Sleep and adolescent growth will not be as overlooked in the scheduling as it has been.
Boredom is survivable. We used to think of boredom as a problem that technology can solve. Then we had all of the technology available and still got bored. And survived. And rested. And created. I wrote this back in our super-scheduled days: Boredom is a gift. It is a gift to have our brains reset. It is a gift to “be still and know God.”
Prediction: These times of boredom are going to be remembered fondly and appreciated. Stories will be repeated for years to come about what was done during the boredom of the COVID-19 days.
How will you restructure your family life when we return back to “normal?” Because no one wants to go back to the normal that we used to have. Yet that schedule is going to slowly fill up again. This time you will have all of this hindsight learning to not place you and your family in that super-scheduled life of before. Like education and the Church, you have an opportunity.
I am praying for you. Because this has been my prayer since this pandemic started also.
*I put these numbers at the end because they are too depressing for such a positive outlook article. I do believe we’ve been gifted an opportunity!
Between 2009 and 2017, rates of depression rose by roughly 60 percent among those ages 14 to 17, and by 47 percent among those ages 12 to 13, according to a 2019 study. Suicides among 10- to 24-year-olds rose 56 percent from 2007 to 2017. Source.
Sigh…right? I do believe we have been gifted an opportunity!