The past eighteen months have been such a challenge and rollercoaster of emotions. Most of us are exhausted, and had been hoping we had “turned the corner” and were headed toward a more peaceful “new normal”….Instead, with the COVID numbers climbing, we are hunkering down and engaging in mask wearing and social distancing again. The hope is that with many already vaccinated, the coming months and extra measures, while inconvenient, will provide the safety we need to keep the spread of infection down.
While we adults are overtaxed by the juggling of responsibilities since early 2020, I’d really like to shift our focus to look at the effects these past eighteen months have had on the younger generations. Prior to March 2020, pediatricians and mental health experts were already concerned about the rise of depression, anxiety, and loneliness amongst 10-28 year olds. Since that time, there has been a large uptick of serious mental health issues, and a deep concern about the long-term consequences of the developmental and psychological impacts of today’s children, adolescents and young adults.
So, this is a time where caretakers of the younger generations (ie. Parents, grandparents, teachers, pastors, etc) can help provide resilience and better long-term outcomes, by being intentional and proactive in our support. We can start by: 1) Keeping our own anxieties under control and getting support from other adults, so our children aren’t influenced by our distress. 2) Make yourself more available to those you are caring for. Don’t wait for your children/teens to come to you to engage. Discover things they are interested in and engage them on a daily basis, even if only for a short time, on their level. 3) Help them learn skills that will help them initiate and make authentic and healthy friendships. And those of us who are older without kids in our homes, we can help engage the younger generations by being interested in them and initiating conversations. 4) Adults, be open about any experiences you feel comfortable sharing that will help them understand that you too, have gone through challenging times and been anxious and afraid. Share positive outcomes and actions you took to get through them.
We as a church family have the opportunity to “shine our Light” during these times of challenge and uncertainty by being positive, following rules, offering hope, and intentionally reaching out to others and provide support. I plan to offer some group sessions, early this Fall, for young people to gather and discuss some of the most pressing issues they are facing. And then follow-up with a plan to help them to meet those needs. In addition, there will be an opportunity for adults/parents to gather and share their needs as well. If it is helpful, we may try and open it up to the community for support. This will not be “therapy”, rather it will be authentic listening, encouraging and skill-building. If you or someone you know, has experience in this area, I invite them to contact me so that I might collaborate with you and provide some practical assistance to our community.
Have a great Fall season. ☺