Why Gen Z is Stressed Out About the Pandemic and How You Can Help Them

For the past several weeks, many people have been stressed out over the pandemic.  And it's not only adults who are experiencing this.  It's their kids as well.

A recent report from the Psychological Association’s found that 91% of Gen Z (today's kids) are stressed out.  This includes physical and emotional symptoms, such as depression or anxiety.

The older Gen Z group of kids were born around the same time of the Columbine shooting.  They have also witnessed the World Trade towers fall.  They have watched as the slo mo replays have shown the buildings falling over and over again.

Gen Z kids also went through the Great Recession of 2008.  They have lived with the fear that shooters could be coming to their school.  And the Sandy Hook massacre of 2012 caused them to realize that school shootings can reach all the way down to elementary school.  Add to that the recent shooting at the school in Parkland, Florida and you're going to see stress, worry and anxiety pop up.

The shootings, tragedies and incidents that have happened in recent years have caused kids to think thoughts like, "The world is very dangerous.  I am not safe.  It could happen to me."

Studies also reveal that Gen Z brings stress upon themselves due to their protectionist attitude.  They feel the pressure to make the best grades, get the most "likes" and followers.  These are real issues that attack their self-worth and security.  No wonder they are stressed out!

Gen Z kids also pick up stress from their parents.  Parents are constantly exposed to the rise of daily violence.  74% of parents called the school shootings a significant source of stress.  It pops up on their mobile phone constantly.  Parents then attempt to exert more control to keep their children safe.

Since 2000 there have been school shootings at the rate of about one a month, resulting in the deaths of about 250 students and teachers.  It is incidents like this that cause kids and parents stress and anxiety.
Gen Z's stress and anxiety problems can also come from...
  • loneliness
  • substituting social media for a true friendship network
  • self-comparison based on what they see on social media
Some ways we can help Gen Z and their parents cope with stress:
  • encourage them to exercise
  • develop some deeper friendships
  • limit smartphone use and social media 
  • increase communication with family members 
Inspite of the negative findings, 75% of those surveyed across all age groups feel hopeful about the future. 

And God can use you and I to speak hope and encouragement into people's lives.  Some ways we can do this are...
  • create or buy a curriculum series about fear and stress
  • pray with children and parents who are feeling anxious
  • share Bible verses that talk about trusting the Lord in hard times.  Here are some examples you can send to kids and parents...
    • So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10)
    • When I am afraid, I will trust in you. (Psalm 56:3)
    • Peace is what I leave with you; it is my own peace that I give you. I do not give it as the world does. Do not be worried and upset; do not be afraid. (John 14:27)
    • For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.               (2 Timothy 1:7)
    • When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul.             (Psalm 94:19)
    • Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and courageous.  Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. (Joshua 1:9)
    • The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear?  The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid? (Psalm 27:1)
  • provide resources for parents that they can use to talk with their children about fear and anxiety - here are 3 key things kids want to know during the pandemic...
    • Am I safe?
    • Are you, the people caring for me, safe?
    • How will this situation affect my daily life?
  • ask these key questions to get kids talking...
    • What have you heard about the coronavirus
    • Where did you hear about it?
    • What are your major concerns or worries?
    • Do you have any questions I can help you answer?
    • How are you feeling about the Coronavirus?
  • have specific times you can talk live with families and pray for them online
  • point parents to worship songs they can play and sing with their kids during the week that will help with overcoming fear and stress
  • control your own feelings - anxiety is contagious 
  • reassure them - remind them that you have been through challenging times before, and though everyone was distressed, everyone also worked together and got through it  - reliving these kinds of happenings helps the whole family build resilience and hope
    Here are tips for helping preschool kids, school-age kids, and teens and young adults.  

    Preschool Kids (Ages 2- 6):

    They are more affected by parental emotions than older kids. For them, especially, be sure to stay calm around them.

    Turn off the TV, computers, smart speakers when they are around. They will hear things or see images that are potentially scary.

    Be careful in talking about the situation with other adults or older siblings around them.
    Younger kids may need a bit more TLC and cuddles than older kids. 
    Make preventive measures such as washing hands or wiping surfaces a playful game.
    School-age Children (Ages 7-12):
    These kids can understand more about a contagious disease. Explain that the germs causing COVID-19 are like ones that cause a cold.  Remind them that these illnesses can spread easily, but that they can also be prevented, which is why we need to wash our hands, use tissues, and use alcohol wipes.
    Kids this age thrive on routine. Try to keep to daily schedules as typical as always, even if you are quarantined at home. Explain that the reason you stocked up on a month’s supply of food and are not going to school or work is to help your community by not spreading the disease to others.
    Younger school-age kids cope with their fears through play. They may play doctor or use a Lego set to create a hospital helping people. This is a normal way for them to manage their anxieties including repeating their games over and over.
    Some school-age kids will become more clingy and demanding. Such “regression” is a way of expressing fear. This is not the time to simply tell them to “grow up,” even if the behavior is frustrating. They may need more time with you – reading to them, watching a TV show together, drawing or playing.
    Your turn.  What are some other ways we can help Gen Z and their parents overcome fear and anxiety?  Share your thoughts and ideas in the comment section below.