First of all, I want to say how deeply sorry I am to all of the family who have suffered loss. I pray for our community, students and staff who lost a friend. I pray that God will wrap His arms around you all.
After the recent tragedies in my small town, it made me realize that our kids are lacking something. What is it? I'm not sure. I do know that my kids are living in a completely different world than I did. Kids now have so much pressure put on them. Pressure to be excellent in school while doing about 1,000 extra activities that take up all of their extra time. Pressure to be the best.
We live in a microwave world. Everything is instant. Want to watch TV? Get your show instantly and never have to watch a commercial. We have the internet in our back pocket. Want to talk to a friend? Text or call them and you can talk to them instantly because we can't go anywhere without our phone. Want a new something? Order it on Amazon and get it instantly. We no longer have to wait for anything. Kids are given the best of the best and don't have to work for it. They no longer have to wait for anything, including anything that they want and because they are so used to having everything instantly, they also want their problems fixed instantly and when they aren't, they feel like there is no way out.
Our kids and most adults are addicted to their phones. There have been studies that show that being on social media for just 10 minutes drops a persons self esteem. Social media has been linked to higher levels of loneliness, envy, anxiety, depression, narcissism and decreased social skills. It is causing people to be disconnected. In the same study, 60% of people using social media reported that it has impacted their self-esteem in a negative way, 50% reported social media is having negative effects on their relationships and 80% reported that it is easier to be deceived by others through their sharing on social media. When looking at social media it appears that everyone around you are in great relationships, going on 5-star vacations and living their dream life when in fact social media only shows the positive aspects of our lives. We buy into lies such as, no one likes us because we didn't get very many likes, or that we will never be good as good as her/him or that our lives are so boring because we don't get to go on these extravagant vacations. We tell ourselves these lies and our kids are doing it too. What we aren't seeing in these social media posts is the struggles that those people are actually going though. They may wish that they had YOUR life. Stop comparing your life to theirs. God didn't want you to have their life, He has a different purpose for you. Yes, I am talking to myself too, I am just as guilty of this as the next person.
With everything that has be brought on by the pandemic, our kid's lives have been flipped upside down. They went from living a normal teenage/kid life to wearing a mask in school, not getting to walk for their high school graduation, no prom, worrying about their future, online classes, worried parents, no sports or other extra curricular activities, no class parties or dances and being isolated. On top of this list there are some kids that have to worry about being in an abusive home 24/7 and where their next meal will come from because they rely on school to be fed. With this list, no wonder our kids have developed anxiety and this list just barely touches what they've gone through. Their brains aren't even fully developed yet and we are expecting them to cope like an adult.
We need to protect our kids, shield them from the trash on TV and YouTube, yes including the news. Make sure you know exactly what they are doing on their phones, who they are with and where they are. Put their phone up at a decent time in the evening. Have family meals together again. Clear their schedules a little bit. Let them be kids. Don't talk about anxiety triggering topics around them. Don't talk negatively about other people around your kids.
We need to step up as parents and teach our kids how to treat and respect others. Kids soak up what they see. Involve them in your random acts of kindness. Involve them in your Bible studies, do one with them. Remind them everyday to be kind and to show others grace and love. People don't know how loved they are unless you show them how loved they are. Encourage your kids to be a friend to the "outcast". There is no room for bullying anywhere and from what I see on social media, our kids are learning it from us. My 3rd grader came home from school and told me that one of her "friends" called her a jerk. What?! I'm not saying that my girls have never said mean things to other kids, because they have, but if I hear it or know about it, I will correct them, talk about how it made the other person feel, remind them how they feel when people do that to them and make them go apologize. Kids are going to mess up, we all do, but they need to know that there are consequences for every action. We can't help that we mess up but we can help how we react to all situations. Remember that everyone, not only our kids, are learning from watching you.