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What you can do to help a stressed out generation

Jason Jimenez
(Courtesy of Jason Jimenez)

Millennials (1984-1999) have gotten all the attention for too long, casting a shadow on Gen Z. Yet, here’s the thing. Gen Z is as big as the Millennial generation. We’re talking about the difference between a few million. Millennials are roughly eighty million, and Gen Z is over seventy million strong. There are some stats out there that show Gen Z is actually larger than Millennials.

Regardless of whose generation is the biggest, the real question is, what generation will have the greatest impact on the world? All signs point to Gen Z. They are nearing the age when they will start effecting change in the world economy, global politics, education, religion, business, and marriage and family.

And to think of all that Gen Z (born 2000-2015) has already had to face in the world is unprecedented compared to Millennials.

Since the horrific terrorist attacks of 9/11, Gen Z has grown up in a world of violence and hysteria. A generation that has had to experience more school shootings and cyberterrorism than any previous generation. So much so that many have come to label Gen Z as “The School Shooting Generation.”

When you take a closer look at Gen Z, you discover that 9 out of 10 of them are stressed out, and they are ushering in a new American culture that has no room for Christianity. And due to the suicide rates among their peers, Gen Z is burying more friends than at any other time. The pandemic definitely threw Gen Z into a tailspin, as many of their graduations, job opportunities, and future plans came to a screeching halt. 

Combine this with the divorces and the difficulties that come with blended families—it's no wonder Gen Z is growing weary and struggling to keep it together. One sixteen-year-old put it mildly, "I feel like all I do is worry about what's to come." 

An article posted on the The Economist read, “Generation Z is stressed, depressed, and exam-obsessed.” That pretty much summarizes the mental state of Gen Z. According to the latest research, older Gen Zers in high school and entering college are considered the most stressed group in America. Another report states younger teens who consume social media throughout the day report being more depressed than older teens.

One student told me, “It doesn’t matter what I do…I can pray, try talking to my parents, or keep distracted by texting—but the anxiety that I feel never seems to go away.”

I asked an eighth-grader how she felt after scrolling through her friends’ pics on Instagram. Her answer was not surprising. “I sometimes feel added pressure to try and be someone that matches with what I see from everybody else.”

It’s not easy for Gen Z entering adolescence to handle the emotion that comes with comparing themselves to everyone else. The psychological stress young people are undergoing can cause their brains to shut down and not correctly respond to everyday interactions with others. Replacing human interaction with constant screen time affects a child's cognitive abilities and impedes interpersonal interactions.

More can be written about Gen Z, but for now, I’d like to leave you with a few impactful ways you can help young people reduce stress, improve in their relationships, and strengthen their faith.

1.  Model your relationship with Jesus. Gen Z is in dire need for older Christians to model what a person who loves Jesus looks like. You don't have to be superhuman to get it right. You just need to humble yourself and let the love of Jesus penetrate your heart. It's impossible to love God without first being impacted by his great love. 1 John 4:19, "We love because he first loved us." So, be an example of someone who reciprocates God’s love and demonstrates to Gen Z what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ (see Matthew 16:24; Romans 6:1-23; 2 Corinthians 5:17-20).

2.  Have daily face-to-face conversations. Be intentional to sit down (with no phones out) with Gen Z and have meaningful conversations with them. By developing healthy dialogue with this young generation, you can be instrumental in teaching them how to respond appropriately to stress, learning to work out problems, and reinforcing the fact that there are people who truly care for them.

3.  Be interested in what interests Gen Z. Ask questions. Get to know what Gen Z is passionate about and why. If a young person brings up a topic of conversation, remain sensitive to how they feel about the issue rather than turn it into an argument. These days, it seems everyone is quick to inject their opinion without hearing the other person out. 1 Peter 3:9 reads, “Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.”

4.  Address their doubts. It's perfectly normal for Gen Z to struggle with doubt. What is not safe is for them to ignore and not deal with their doubts. If they neglect or bury their doubts, it will debilitate their faith or possibly cause them to abandon their faith altogether.So be open to address whatever they might be doubting and work with them to find the answers they need to overcome them.

5.  Pray with them. If there’s one thing Gen Z can use some more of its prayer. Paul writes in Philippians 4:6, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God." Therefore, don’t underestimate the power of prayer. Praying over someone might be awkward for you. But don’t let your fears prevent you from lifting up the needs of a young person to God. They will thank you for it.   

Jason Jimenez is president of Stand Strong Ministries (www.standstrongministries.org), a faculty member at Summit Ministries, and a best-selling author who specializes in apologetics and biblical worldview training. Connect with him on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

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