Under Pressure

Over the past several years I have been working on a project that partially digs into the fact that our kids are growing up in a culture that pushes them to perform at every turn. Talk to most any middle school, high school, or college student and you will hear them lament the fact that their lives feel like a pressure cooker that is always on. There is the constant pressure to perform in school so they can get the grades to get into the right school to get the right job to make the best money. If they play sports, there is the constant pressure to work harder to make the team or be the starter and win all the games. As they live in the world of social media, there is the pressure to post the right things to get the likes and accumulate the followers. Normally, this pressure is non-stop.

But these aren’t normal times, are they?  As I have conversations with kids and teens in this season of “stay at home” orders, I’m noticing that they are possibly feeling something different, and they really like it. It’s a lack of pressure. With school moving to online and many institutions having to change their requirements, most students haven’t felt anywhere near the amount of academic pressure they are used to. With sports being suspended and other activities being postponed, the overall pressure to perform has seemingly gone away. As kids and students reflect on this temporary new normal, I have heard the phrase “It’s been nice” more than once.

Although I know the current state of affairs won’t last forever and we will get back to some sense of “normal” at some point, I do want to take some time to think about what living in a world of less pressure has done for our kids. Don’t get me wrong, I totally understand that this season has put more pressure on some families for a variety of reasons. People have lost jobs and income, families have lost loved ones, and kids and teens have lost experiences they will never get back. This season has not been easy by any means. But for most kids and teens, they have been able to navigate life with far less pressure than normal.

So, the question for me as a parent in this: Has this lack of pressure been good or bad for my kids? You can probably guess where I land. I think the overall lack of pressure in this season has been great for our kids. I think it has allowed them to take a breath from an overwhelming life that may have been crushing them on the inside. I think the lack of pressure may have given them some space to think about who they really are, to pursue new things, and to just be a kid again. There is a real danger that, whenever this pandemic is over and people return to the activities of life, we will allow adolescent pressures to slowly mount again. As a parent, I need to take the time to think through how I can infuse a lower pressure life (for my kids) into whatever normal comes back to our world. If kids and teens are saying and showing that a lower pressure life is a better life to live, we have to figure out how to help them live in that space. Is all pressure bad? Of course not.  Our kids need to learn how to operate in the real world. But I do wonder if we as parents have been blind to what the pressure cooker that our kids normally live in has been doing to them. Have we been so intent to push them to succeed that we have been a big part of the pressure to perform they feel?

I want for my kids to feel how much I love them, how much God loves them, and how their identity is not rooted in how they perform. Their identity is rooted in Christ and how he has created them. If I can get them to understand that, I’m hoping the pressure is off.