​Our Children will be Adults Before we Know it - A blog from the Head of SLC

Ready or not – our children will be adults before we know it.

And like it or not, young people today are part of a generation that feels empowered and that they may not “need” older adults to form their opinions or to help them fulfil their dreams.

Consider these things that may be impacting on our children today:

Young people are moving away from their parents’ faith and religion in general

According to recent research, between the years 1989 and 2000, the percentage of young adults who believed in God changed very little. The vast majority not only believed in God, but they emulated their parents’ faith. By 2016, one out of three say they do not even believe in God, and even less are involved in church in any way. Young adults today are quickly becoming the most irreligious population of youth in history. Somehow, as adults who practice our faith, we have not been overt enough to spark our children’s interest.

More teenagers are choosing a career path without consulting their parents or adults

While teenagers may talk to both parents and teachers about their dreams, they do not look to adults for predictions on what careers or the economy will look like a decade from now. Many students recognise they might just have a job that doesn’t even exist now. Further, they don’t need us for a launching pad—if they want to write and publish a song, they don’t need a record company. They can post it online through iTunes or Spotify. If they want to write a book, they don’t need a traditional publisher to get their story out; they can self-publish it. If they want to launch a business or non-profit, they don’t even need funding from parents or investors; they can utilize a “GoFundMe” campaign. It’s a DIY world today.

More young people are forming viewpoints unrelated to the adults in their life.

Today’s secondary and university students are the first generation who don’t need adults to get information. Parents and teachers were once needed because we knew “stuff” that kids didn’t know. Thanks to Google, Siri and other smart technologies, they now don’t need us for information. They scroll through hundreds—maybe thousands of feeds on their phone—forming their own opinion and worldview. All of this can be unsettling for us as parents when we want to have influence on their lives.

What can we do as parents?

The last thing teachers, coaches, leaders, youth group leaders and parents should do is to force a young person to align with their viewpoint or to emulate their behaviour. Good influencers don’t need to force this—they earn this kind of influence. Let’s face it—teenagers don’t need adults the same way they once did; they feel empowered.

We must figure out how to make ourselves useful and helpful to our children in this new world, and the key is to provide something they can’t get elsewhere.

Let me suggest a few ideas of some rare commodities they still need from us:

Offer them “Life Hacks”.

In the same way a typical teenager knows how to hack into a computer system, we must show them how they can benefit from our years of experience through “life hacks.” Talk with them about “hacks” on how to negotiate the purchase of their next phone, getting a job, buying when insurance is helpful and when it’s not, or why it’s often better to buy a used car than a new one. These ‘Hacks” may help keep us relevant.

Offer them a safe sounding board.

While teenagers are connected almost 24/7 with peers, they often still don’t have a person who’s completely safe to bounce ideas off and to get helpful feedback. Between the ages of 16-24, young people are considering big decisions and choosing a path they’ll take for a while. A listening ear and some good questions for them to think about are a rare commodity. This is something you and I can do for them.

Offer them long-term thinking and experience.

Almost everywhere they look, students hear ‘short-term thinking’ like: Buy now pay later! You deserve this today! Don’t miss out! These are mantras of a culture that knows little about delayed gratification. What if we offered the rare commodity of ‘long-term thinking,’ showing our children the consequences of doing what feels good today and the benefits of ‘pay now, play later.’ Share what you have learned through your experiences.

Offer them our networks.

While anyone—even teenagers—can build a profile on Instagram, snapchat or LinkedIn, they still likely don’t have years of face-to-face friendships with the people you know. Try introducing your children (as young adults) to key people who were in careers that your son and daughter might want to explore. Leverage your network for their benefit. Build a bridge to your inner-circle and help them explore options that may influence their future pathway.

Offer them belief.

Finally, most students still need an older, caring adult who honestly believes in them and their potential. Someone who has a firm set of beliefs based on faith and/or core values. It almost sounds cliché, but they tend to hang around those who can spot their strengths, who believe in their future and who can cheer them on as they grow. Who will hold them accountable (with love) when they stray. Why not be the adult you wish you had as a teenager.

We may not succeed in influencing them through all of these strategies, but taking the time to invest, share and support can only help them as they seek their own pathway, values and beliefs as growing young adults. What have we got to lose, but some time and maybe a bit of frustration?