It’s never been easy being a kid—but today’s culture brings some different challenges than in generations past. As parents, we long to protect our children from hard times, but those hardships are what develop their character and their dependence on the Lord.
Jesus promised us that we will struggle on this journey on earth. No one is exempt. John 16:33 says, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
As tempting as it is to try to keep our children’s lives easy, it’s a lot more productive to acknowledge their struggles, point them toward Christ, and walk with them through their trials. We can’t make all their problems go away, but we can lead and offer guidance as parents. But to do so effectively, we must first know what our kids are facing today.
While the wisdom of Solomon remains true—there is nothing new under the sun—being a kid or teen in today’s society does present some unique elements. Our children are facing more challenges with peer pressure, cancel culture, and technology overall that is somewhat unfamiliar to our own childhood experiences.
Here are eight things kids are most anxious about these days:
I don’t think anything is more important to my own pre-teen and my elementary-aged child today than their friendships. They crave social life and activities, especially in this post-pandemic world we live in. When someone is sick or quarantining, it makes the time in between social events even harder and feel impossibly long and lonely. Making friends, keeping friends, and learning how to be a good friend is an incredibly important part of our children’s lives.
When friendships feel out of whack, this affects them deeply, on both an emotional and mental level. I know my children crave connection in their friendships, and struggle when that connection is even temporarily severed due to conflict, quarantine, or sheer busy-ness. Respecting this need in our children’s lives and listening when their friendships are struggling will not only strengthen our parent-child connection, but will show our children that we understand and that we’re here for them.
Kids of all ages are often anxious about school. Not only do they have to deal with the age-old anxieties of school we all did, which involve peer pressure, insecurities over their appearance or wardrobe, making friends, and getting good grades, now, our kids have the extra anxiety of wondering what school will even look like on a given day. Will it be virtual, in-person, hybrid, with a mask, without a mask? It constantly changes. We were used to school being a trusted, dependable routine, almost to the detriment of boredom. But our kids have to learn now in an ever-altering environment that can be incredibly stressful. This deserves validation.
3. Fear of Failing
This one is big. Kids today, while getting a lot of cliché judgment over being spoiled and lazy, are actually anxious about succeeding. Kids and teenagers today have a desire to please and prove themselves, and sometimes, that effort can be internalized until it creates anxiety. It’s important to praise our kids for good grades or for performing well in sports, but we must be careful not to let them believe that’s where their worth lies.
We must remember to teach our children that their identity and value come from who they are in Christ, regardless of whether they made Straight A’s, made the team, or made their bed. Our children are craving acceptance and unconditional love. One of the most effective ways to show them the gospel is to show them the parallel of how they are loved not based on their works, but on their sonship. And how much more than that does Christ love them still?
4. Anxiety and Depression
Today’s generations of children struggle not only with the very real issues of clinical anxiety and depression, but they also struggle with anxiety over the thought of anxiety and depression. With mental health being on everyone’s radar—which is a good thing!—it can also bring fear to children who are prone to over-think, over-analyze, and tend to fear the unknown.
Ripley’s Believe It Or Not funhouse years ago had a room with multiple doors, all labeled with various fears. Fear of Spiders, Fear of the Dark, etc. One door was labeled Fear of Fear, and it was by far the scariest one. It’s healthy for us to have raw, honest talks with our kid and teens about mental health, so that they have real information vs. unspoken fears. They need to know they are not only free to discuss these hard things with us but are encouraged to do so without shame or embarrassment.
5. Family Dynamics
While divorce hasn’t been a stranger to the American family unit for a very long time, it’s even more common now for our children to suddenly find themselves in the middle of a divorce or blended family. These new relationships that are thrust on them are often hard to navigate and require time and patience. Even in families unaffected by divorce, sibling relationships can be tricky. It’s normal for our kids and teens to feel anxiety and stress over these family dynamics. Because of that, it’s important that our children know they can come to the Lord in honest prayer with their feelings. It’s also crucial that they have someone in their lives they can safely talk with, be it their parents, stepparents, grandparents, or aunts and uncles. Counseling for blended families is also incredibly beneficial for the adjustment period.
6. Getting & Maintaining New Responsibilities
Our children often will have stress and anxiety over getting and maintaining new responsibilities, especially if those responsibilities come with or lead to perks such as getting a first cell phone or being rewarded with a later curfew or bedtime. Our kids are eager to prove themselves—learning how to navigate responsibilities at home can bring a lot of pressure into their lives. They want to prove they are capable, trustworthy and responsible, but obviously, they don’t always get it right. Forgiveness, patience, and open communication can help our kids learn how to achieve their goals and excel—with or without a reward—and gain pleasure in a job well done, without the pressure to do it perfectly the first time.
7. Social Media and Technology
Perhaps the biggest difference for our kids today than in generations past is the boom of technology. I was a child when my father brought home our first home computer, a giant box of a machine that ran DOS. I was much older when the internet became available. So, you and I remember a time without technology, but our children do not. Overuse of screen time, overstimulation via screens, and peer pressure for those without them has become a very real source of anxiety for our kids and teenagers. Whether they have their own phone or social media or not, our children are feeling immense pressure to compete and keep up.
Fear of missing out is a real issue in their lives. It’s important to plan ahead for your family regarding rules of technology—when your child will get their first phone, what apps will be allowed, what responsibilities are expected while they have it, etc.—and stick to that plan so your kid knows what to expect. Navigating the world of social media and technology without a plan is foolish. We have to protect our kids and teenagers, while also preparing them for life online. We can’t shelter them from it forever, but we can speak with them on godly conduct and on healthy expectations—and we must.
8. The Future and Change
Our children and teenagers today struggle with change—largely due to how many changes have been going on around them, without their consent. Feeling out of control is alarming even for adults—how much more so for our kids? And these last few years, change has been an unfortunate given. Because of this, they also struggle with anxiety over the future. What will change next? What will be out of their control next? It’s easy for these fears to take over emotionally and even manifest into physical symptoms if not reined in. As parents, we can’t control everything either, but we can point our kids to the One who does.
Teaching our children to go to the Lord with their fears, anxieties, and stress over all the unknown and uncontrollable things now as kids provide them with a how-to map for when they face those same struggles as adults. We have a window of opportunity right now to teach our children to build their security not on the world, government, politics, or even friendships and family, but on the solid rock and foundation of Christ alone.
Betsy St. Amant Haddox is the author of more than fifteen inspirational romance novels and novellas. She resides in north Louisiana with her hubby, two total-opposite young daughters, a vast collection of novels, and an impressive stash of Pickle chips. Betsy has a B.A. in Communications and a deep-rooted passion for seeing women restored in Christ. When she’s not sweating it out at Camp Gladiator or trying to prove unicorns are real, Betsy can usually be found somewhere in the vicinity of a white-chocolate mocha. Look for her latest novel with Revell, Tacos for Two, coming October 2021. You can visit Betsy at http://www.betsystamant.com and hear her speak live April 10th, 2021 at the virtual Launching Into Freedom conference for divorced women. Register for this free event at https://rebrand.ly/Betsy-St-Amant-Haddox