“What has been the greatest challenge to you personally in 2020?” It’s a question I find myself asking everyone around me, from family members all the way to my server at a restaurant. This is such a powerful question right now. I find that most people don’t need long to figure out and respond with their answer. All seem not just willing, but eager to share.
With this idea in mind, I reached out to a handful of parents asking them more specifically what challenges they faced being a parent in 2020. I was more moved than surprised as I heard burdens being expressed and voices of hopelessness ring out. Only God in heaven can meet our needs right now.
Here are the responses of parents shepherding kids through the muck and mire of 2020:
“[I worry about my kids] becoming isolated. Not just physically, but emotionally /mentally /relationally. Losing empathy, and even just social cues and warmth (lost with masks and distancing, lack of touch).. (I fear they are) losing the ability to really listen, empathize, learn… [They need] openness to change their opinions – or evolve/grow in them. Praying for HUMILITY to be grown.”
“[I’m concerned about] gaps in their education due to Covid or lack of resources for the extra tutoring needed.”
“[My] concern for students is what they fear. I see so much anxiety in teens and it has only increased since Covid, race relations, etc. I also feel like we need to have open and honest conversation with teens. When we don’t understand the virus – admit it. When we aren’t educated on racial divides or gender differences then [we parents should] educate ourselves and have a calm open discussion…”
“[I worry about] their mental health. I think their desire for community is far stronger than we realize. They need each other, they accept each other…”
“I think … my 5th grader is going to be faced with pushback against who he is: white male who is heterosexual. I think he is going to be pushed to believe things that are non-biblical and it’s so mainstream that he won’t even know it. I think he is going to be shamed about who he is and what he believes for years to come as a conservative bible believer.”
“ [I see] anxiety in middle school/high school [students] and their inability to troubleshoot problems …. Kids today are under so much pressure to be perfectionists and cannot handle failure….”
“Confusion, disconnect, young people associating Christianity with intolerance.”
“Casualization of sex and all things related to sex.”
“Lack of fatherly leadership without a doubt.”
“I think about this all the time. Technology addiction, porn addiction, substance abuse…. My biggest concern is social media. It is influencing our pre-teens and teens in all areas including the desensitization of our youth.”
“ I think what is the most concerning to us, as parents, would be the erosion of real community. The abrupt ending to ‘doing life’ as we knew it (school, church, friends) has been filled with all kinds of strange grief for our boys. This is a critical time for them to learn how to lean into community to navigate all of life (the good and the hard) with people in a deep way. It’s sad to us that some of this has been taken away.”
“The racial divide is concerning. However, we have had some great conversations with our boys over the summer and I feel like they are learning about racism in a way that we never did. I am hoping and praying that this rising generation will be the next agency of change in the area of race. Please pray.”
“An increasing thoughtlessness. I’ve seen a lot of selfishness and [kids] don’t seem to grasp the gravity of what’s happening since it’s ‘not directly affecting them’.”
“It’s definitely a tight rope of discussing the current events and holding them tight. My child already deals with anxiety so I have to discuss these things with the perspective that these issues aren’t directly impacting her but may directly impact her friends and us someday. Awareness is the biggest thing.”
“Our political climate is a hot mess but God is in control … So basically all conversations circle back to the gospel. Love yourself. Love others. And when we disagree with others, don’t be afraid to have conversations in love… not shame.”
“Satan sure is busy these days. But so is God. And I must focus on the latter to get me through my day to be a positive force for my kids.”
As I considered these responses, I saw three trends about the parents of kids in 2020:
- They need to feel heard and seen.
- They need to feel understood by others who are struggling too.
- They need to not feel alone.
All of these parents were so grateful for the opportunity to have a voice in this conversation and to be able to express their concerns. Some asked where the responses would be posted because they needed to read what others were saying. Others said that no one had given them a chance to process their struggles until the question came their way.
What the kids need most is exactly what their parents need. Our teenagers need to be heard and seen. They need to know that their parents are struggling too. But it seems that almost more than anything, our kids need to know that they are not alone.
All of us, no matter who we are or how hard we have been hit by the wrecking ball of 2020, can take heart knowing that Jesus comes to meet us at our places of need. As we find ourselves in the face of unimaginable circumstances and trials, He relates to us as He endured human suffering to the greatest degree possible during His time on earth. There is no place He is calling us to be without first having been there Himself.
Likewise, He meets us in an even greater place of need as He willingly took the pain and suffering upon Himself on the cross so that we can be free and forgiven of our sins. He entered the greatest depths of suffering, even to the point of death. Truly, this is our greatest provision in light of our greatest need. If He has gone there for us before, take heart and know that He will go there with us again.
HE sees and hears you.
HE understands that you are struggling.
HE is always with you.
So what do your kids need in 2020? What is their greatest concern? What are their greatest challenges? Their answers are deeply embedded in your answers! It’s amazing that the greatest way to encourage them is more obvious than you think, more natural than you can imagine, and could possibly draw you closer to them than ever before.
Just as your heavenly Father sees and hears you, understands you in the pain, and is always present with you, go and be this to your kids.
See and hear them.
Tell them you understand because you are struggling too.
Remind them that you are always there for them.
There is no more beautiful way to share the everyday gospel with these kids than to be a picture of the Father to them. Go do that now.