Our Children Are Stressed

One benefit of directing a week of camp for children and teens is getting insight into what they really think about their lives.

My husband and I have worked in camp ministry since we were teens ourselves. We’ve directed since we were barely out of our teens (this was our 16th year).

Here’s something that jumped out at me this year:

Our children are stressed.

stressed children
I don’t just mean the six kids I’m raising.

I mean all of our children. Yours. Mine.

They have anxiety about things children didn’t even think about it years past.

A twelve year old confessed she was worried about where to go to college and that she didn’t know what she wanted to be. TWELVE.

These kids feel the pressure to be all around good: good Christians, good athletes, good students, and good in general.

Some are stressed over family situations they can’t control: parents or other relatives who are split up, siblings who are following dangerous paths, people they care about who are battling addictions and challenges of all types. A few of these kids have abuse in their backgrounds, but most don’t.

Nearly all feel an intense desire to measure up to a standard they know they’re not reaching.

Honestly – it breaks my heart. Children should be children. A twelve year old doesn’t need to worry about college.

A ten year old shouldn’t be worried about whether she’ll “make the team” or not be good enough. Or that her parents will be disappointed in her when she’s not as good an athlete as a family friend.

Stress as a lifestyle is something we adults invented and it’s a shame that we’re making our kids join in at increasingly young ages.

So, I’m saying no to raising stressed kids

It’s not exactly that I do not care where my children go to college or, at this point, what they want to be when they grow up. (Always subject to change, obviously.)

But no one should feel like their future is ruined if they didn’t make an elite team at age 10 or 11 or 12. (Or 15, 16, 17…)

Which of us adults exactly followed the path we envisioned as a teenager?

No one can be a perfect athlete, perfect student, perfect Christian, and perfect child all at once.

And God isn’t asking this.

Grace is free. Christ lived and died because none of us are perfect.

Have we tricked our children into thinking they need to perform to earn God’s love? We should be ashamed if we have.

Or maybe we’re doing that because WE think it ourselves? We have to stop for our own sake and the sake of the young people following behind.

What would happen if we loved our children well?

If we took away some of the plates they’re trying to spin?

What if we stopped treating their accomplishments as our own? Or as if we’re not good enough parents unless our kids are better in some way than someone else’s?

What if we gave them time to figure out who they are before we ask them to be the best at it?

Our kids are stressed. But they don’t have to be.

And we might find out that in lessening the burden on our kids, we ease the burden on ourselves at the same time.

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  1. I completely agree with you. This saddens me so much. Somehow I, too, have raised young adults that are very stressed. And I thought I did a pretty good job and that homeschooling would shield them from that some. The culture is commanding. They see the kids around them and it is like a viral disease. We have our kids trying to be all star children, good at everything. That just isn’t possible. I have kids in piano that come straight from ballet, or go straight to soccer. Then they have homework. I would bet money that they don’t even get any time to relax at home and just be a kid. But there is the flip side too. If we don’t bow to the culture, our kids do tend to be alone. There are no kids just hanging out or playing in the neighborhood because they have been driven to all of their activities. It is a rough place where we have placed our children. They are stressed. Good post.

    • Ugh, yes. The social media thing is also eating our kids alive. Even if we’re not pressuring them they can just look on Instagram and see what their friends posted today. (The high grade they got, the wonderful score at a game, the brand new car, the activity our kid wasn’t invited to…unfortunately, I could go on.)