It was a bit of a crazy night. All of us had been going in different directions and it was quite a scramble to get dinner ready. Each night our kids have different responsibilities when it comes to the meal. One of them will set and clear the table and the other will do the dishes. On this night, there were LOTS of dishes (and pots and pans and bowls). When we finished eating, our son cleared the table and it was our daughter’s turn to do the dishes :(.
When she got into the kitchen and looked at the mound of dishes, she instantly hit an emotional wall. Plates were on the counter, pots were on the stove, bowls were in the sink, and it was a mess. Neither of our kids likes having this assignment, but on this night our daughter kind of fell apart. As she tried to start cleaning things up, she stopped and proclaimed for all to hear “This is so stressful!”
Stressful? A cluttered kitchen with piles of dishes from dinner is stressful? I understand that there are times in life when things are overwhelming and there seems like there is simply too much to do. But, in this situation, was it stressful, or just maybe hard?
As I watch culture and listen to people today, kids are often telling themselves that they are stressed when there is a task ahead of them that seems daunting. My daughter actually does it all the time. If they believe that something is going to be hard to do, take any length of time, or force them to figure it out, they see it as being stressful. I know it can be, but I remember being taught that sometimes things in life are going to be hard. Sometimes I am going to have to work and simply give effort. Sometimes I am going to have to think a little and figure it out.
We all know that stress, anxiety, and depression continue to be on the rise in our culture. More and more kids and teens identify with these emotions. I certainly understand that some kids and teens legitimately struggle with anxiety and depression. However, I do wonder if we as adults need to ask ourselves: Are allowing things that are simply hard to be labeled as stressful? Is our desire to protect our kids from anything that is harmful or uncomfortable in some way playing into their inability to handle certain normal situations? Are we a part of the story that everything is so stressful?
I want for my kids to be able to navigate the world they live in and recognize that sometimes, things are going to be hard. Have we unknowingly lowered the bar so much that normal, ordinary tasks and opportunities are now seemingly producing the stress and anxiety we hear about from our kids?
If you in any way agree with me, I would offer a few ideas of how we as parents can combat this growing mentality. First, when our kids indicate they are stressed about something, don’t let them stay there. Don’t let them tell themselves they are stressed and reinforce the story that is building in their mind. Challenge them to face down the event/issue and simply work through it. When I hear my kids say that something is stressful, I’m trying to get in to the habit of asking them if maybe what is in front of them is just maybe hard and then give them steps to take to move along.
Second, don’t talk about how stressful things are in your life. We all have difficult situations and circumstances to deal with, but I don’t want my kids thinking that their future as an adult is full of non-stop stress. Try to give them a better picture of what it means to be an adult and do everything you can to live in the hope that you have in God.
Finally, pray for your kids in this arena. Pray that God will give them the strength to be able to work through the issues that face them. Pray that they can be “transformed by the renewing of their mind” and develop healthy thought patterns when it comes to simply living life. Oh yeah, and pray for yourself that you may have the wisdom you need to help them along their journey.
”Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”