Every week it seems like we get more evidence that today’s children, teens and young adults lack resiliency. Resiliency is crucial. It is what makes one get up, dust oneself off and continue learning, growing and producing after something bad happens in life. Spiritual resiliency goes even deeper. It’s the ability to stay strong spiritually in spite of life’s ups and downs. Although not as many people study spiritual resiliency, understanding the factors impacting “regular” resilience makes it clear that spiritual resiliency is even less likely to be found in young people.
So what has changed over the last several decades to make our children and teens so vulnerable to life’s challenges? The number one source of resiliency is a strong, healthy relationship with a supportive, nurturing parent. With both parents often working long hours, children engaged every waking hour in some programmed activity and where any free time families have is spent looking at screens, the idea of a strong, healthy parent child relationship – where parents nurture, set and reinforce limits, teach and coach their children in what God wants them to know and who He wants them to be – is on life support. It is not an overstatement to say that the average child, teen or young adult is in crisis – only one bad life event away from crumbling emotionally and spiritually.
As someone regularly ministering to young people, you probably already knew that instinctively. You may have tried to encourage parents to make choices that will help their children instead of hurting them. It’s quite likely your efforts were rejected as old fashioned, out of touch, judgmental or toxic in some way. Keep trying. Host classes, seminars and small group Bible studies encouraging parents to make better choices. Find ways to encourage them to be counter cultural and to find ways to spend more meaningful time with their children. Give them copies of our blog posts or printable parenting tip sheets. Find mentors. Encourage humility.
What about the children of parents who refuse to make choices that are healthier for their children? Although not as effective as the parent/child relationship in building resilience, studies did find that any adult willing to invest in a young person’s life – providing nurturing, teaching and coaching – could improve the young person’s resilience. Not as much as a parent perhaps (because of time constraints on the relationship), but even a bit of extra resilience could mean the difference in whether or not some young people become suicidal or experience other serious negative consequences from a lack of resilience.
There are other factors in building resilience in young people that your ministry can also impact. In our next post, we will examine personal qualities that can improve resilience.