By Erin Weist
We live in a new time. The generation raising children now is doing something absolutely new that no one in the history of the entire world has done before: They are raising children with unprecedented amount of information streaming into their homes at an unprecedented rate.
I read this heartbreaking blog article this week about children and the increases seen in depression and mental illness, loneliness, helplessness, possible suicide and more. One of the major contributors to this appears to be the high-tech parenting and technological exposure kids have today. Sometimes the negative symptoms described are not immediately recognizable so it is important for parents to stay alert and involved in their kids’ lives. The author of the blog article has some fantastic ideas to help our kids out of this chasm of despair. These ideas include spending more quality time with our kids, removing them from screens, improving their diet, ensuring they get better sleep, and increasing their responsibilities.
I would add two things I have recognized as having a positive impact on my young children and from my own experiences as a teenager.
1: Opportunities for serving others. As an insecure teenager I felt, at times, great social anxiety. I worried about being accepted by my peers, about standing out in unaccepted ways, and being mocked. The times at which I felt the greatest sense of freedom in social situations was when I was able to put the needs of another person above my own.
For example, a church group I was involved with hosted a dance for teens with special needs. We were asked to help everyone feel welcome. In this situation I was able to forget my own social anxiety because I had a responsibility to help someone else. Giving kids the chance to show love and kindness to someone else, surprisingly, also helps them love themselves.
2: I was blessed with parents who were my greatest cheerleaders. My personal doubts were numerous, but never once did I doubt that my parents were behind me 100% or that they thought I was a person worth loving. While there are many conversations I have forgotten over time, one thing I always remember is the feeling of safety that came from a full assurance of love. That has become one of my main goals of parenting my own children. They will forget most of what I say but they’ll remember how they feel. When in my home and in my presence, do they know they are loved?
A good rule in most relationships is that people only know what you tell them. Do not assume anyone is a mind-reader. It is okay if it feels cheesy or unnatural at first, but tell your kids, “I want you to know I love you and support you.” After a while it won’t feel unnatural or cheesy anymore, it will feel absolutely natural. And it just might be necessary to their survival in this world.
The world competes for the lives of our children. Technology, good or bad, is streamed in seconds to screens that surround your children and inundate them with messages that contribute to the decline of a child’s self-worth, and have cause a substantial increase in destructive behaviors and thought patterns in our children. If that scares you even just a little that is good because you will be on your guard, watching for potential pitfalls, lifting your kids above the noise. You are setting the example for future generations who will grow up in this information age, so keep watching, keep stepping carefully. You can help them navigate the treacherous waters from youth to adult and they will know they are not doing it alone.