Navigating the Noise
A few years ago, I saw a video called “This Generation.” It was a fast-paced depiction of the teenage world with short interviews interspersed. The video kind of rocked me. Having two teenagers myself, I kind of knew about the world they live in every day, but it was jarring to watch it unfold in a twelve-minute barrage of images and sounds. There was busyness and constant movement, activity and devices, questions and confusion, and a lot of stuff that I like to call “the noise.”
You know all about “the noise.” You see it and live in it every day yourself. The noise comes at us in two ways. First, it comes in the busyness of life with a calendar packed full of school, events, sports, jobs, friends, hobbies, and, oh yeah, time with family. It can be nuts! And then the noise comes at us through technology with social media, email, news, entertainment, ads, and connection with family and friends. It can be exhausting!
I hope you know that the noise isn’t going away. Unless we’re willing to go “off the grid” and take up residence in a remote part of the world, the noise seems to be an ongoing part of our lives. It’s actually going to get louder. And I hope you know that the noise has an impact! You’ve no doubt heard the stats about how anxiety and depression both continue to increase among kids and teens. There are a growing number of researchers who are correlating the advent of the smartphone with the rise of loneliness, anxiety, and depression. As positive and helpful as they can be, we also know that the busyness of the world and the distractions of technology are having a negative effect both short and long-term on our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health. I think we, as parents, can easily slip into a posture that minimizes what’s going on with this generation, as well as what’s going on in us. I desperately want us to take seriously what this world is doing to our kids and our families.
As we think about these things, I have a few assumptions. I assume that we all want to be great parents. I assume that we all want to have a healthy, sustainable pace of life that doesn’t overwhelm us. I assume that we all want our kids to develop the skills to have a healthy, sustainable pace of life that doesn’t overwhelm them in the future. And I assume that we all want our kids to grow up with a real faith that makes a difference in their lives. I think the noise around us all is so loud that it’s REALLY hard for our faith and our kids’ faith to take root.
So, what do we do? How can we help ourselves and our teens better navigate the noise of life?
Believe in the Biblical Concept of Sabbath
Do you believe that you need a regular period of time in your life, let’s say weekly, where you need to rest in God and who He is? Not just rest, but rest in God. Sabbath is a way of remembering and expressing the truth that God is our creator and deliverer, and sustainer. We are dependent on him for all we have in the world. Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still and know that I am God.” Do you take time in your life to lean into this? I’m guessing that the version of you that a non-sabbath life produces is not the version of you that God intends and not the version of you that your kids need.
Say “No!” to Some Things So You Can Say “Yes!” to Better Things
You can’t do everything, be everywhere, and help everyone, and neither can your kids. As parents, we have to lead the way when it comes to making wise choices about how we spend our time. Instead of filling your calendars and your teen’s calendars with so many things, evaluate what things you can eliminate and say “No!” to so that you can have more margin and space to simply breathe. We have to find ways to intentionally slow down and be less busy. This may give us more time to be together and build the real relationships we want to have in the years to come.
Help Your Teens Understand and Experience Sabbath
As you model what it means to have a sabbath, be intentional to schedule in downtime for your kids, even if they push against it. Kids and teenagers need time with us when they are not in the middle of the chaos. If your family is involved in a church, make sure to protect those hours and join the community of faith in worship. Resist the tendency to let down time = screen time. It may seem mindless, but it does not provide the sabbath that anyone needs.
Create Limits and Step Away from the Device
Speaking of screen time, I recently read a survey that asked teenagers the number one thing that they would like to change in their relationship with their parents. Overwhelmingly the answer was, “I wish my parents would spend less time on their phones and talk to me more.” Our habits and practices very much affect our kids’ habits and practices. Create limits for both yourself and for your kids, and don’t just create limits around devices. Do you need to create limits around how many sports your kids will be involved in at one time? Does there need to be a discussion about the number of AP or honors classes your teens should take?
As you seek to help your kids grow up to be healthy young adults, I believe one of the best gifts you can give them is an understanding of what it looks like to have a healthy rhythm of life. If they grow up only experiencing a lot of the noise that comes from a busy calendar and a non-stop wave of technology, how will they know how to slow down themselves and live at a more sustainable pace? As parents, we have the opportunity to lead the way and plant seeds in our kids and teens that will help them grow into adults who can experience an abundant life without needing all of that noise.