If you turn on the television or logon to social media, even for just just a few seconds, you’re going to see coverage or news on COVID-19. All I have to do is open my web browser and fifteen different articles on the virus and its spread pops up. It can be exhausting.
But the news article and TV coverage I’ve been seeing the most recently is about how young people are handling the news of quarantines, lockdowns, and social distancing. As I’ve listened and read what the media has been saying about teenagers and young adults facing this global pandemic, I was burdened by it.
For most teenagers or young adults this is probably the scariest, weirdest, or most stressful time of their life. They haven’t walked through a global pandemic before. They haven’t experienced something that has completely shifted their life like this has. It’s very scary and uncertain.
I’m certainly not saying that we shouldn’t enforce social distancing or that we shouldn’t correct the hundreds of college students who flooded the Florida beaches only a couple short weeks ago. I am saying that the more we tear young people down with harsh words or comments like “just accept things and move on,” the more we are going to put a very high barrier between us and them.
And we as a church are called to be unified—all ages, young and older people. Everyone.
So instead of responding how many people on social media and the news are, let’s take a look at how we can support the young people in our lives. How can you and I reach into their hearts and help them through this crazy, uncertain time?
1. Listen to Them and Validate Their Feelings
Middle school students, high school students, college students—they all have a hundred different emotions swirling around in their heads and hearts right now. From sadness to fear, to anger and confusion. Frustration, irritation, loneliness, depression. Some of them probably don’t even know what they’re feeling.
Adults are feeling this way too—we all are. But for the young people in your life who may not always know how to express exactly what they’re feeling, how can you help?
You can listen to them and help them to understand that what they’re feeling is completely okay and even normal right now.
My emotions have been all over the place the last few weeks. In one hour I can go from looking ahead at how God can use this current circumstance, to crying in sadness over how things have changed, and then to feeling angry and stressed out that everything feels out of my control. I’m sure you can relate.
The young people in your life have experienced a great amount of loss through all of this as well and that’s not something that we can brush off or tell them to stop feeling.
High school seniors are missing out on proms, and who knows what will happen by graduation. College students are having to figure out online semesters. And some young adults are even having to cancel weddings or give up on the wedding of their dreams.
Sit down with the young people in your life and listen to what they have to say about what they’re feeling and then help them to understand that it is completely okay to feel all of that.
2. Remind Them of Truth
We can’t always control how we’re feeling, but we do have the choice to control how we respond to those feelings.
When young people feel heard and they know it’s okay to experience what they’re feeling, it’ll be much easier for them to understand that they have a choice about how to respond from there.
Start by reminding them of the truth of God’s Word and what will never change—God, His love for us, His presence with us, and His plans for us. Remind them of the character of God.
Don’t push them to stop hurting or feeling upset, but encourage them to remember that in all of it, they aren’t alone.
3. Give Them Grace
They’re still learning, they’re still trying to figure all of this out. We all are. And just as you would like your family and friends to show grace in the moments when you let your stress get the best of you, be willing to show them grace in the moments that they get overwhelmed by everything too.
There are going to be times when their irritation, stress, anxiety, or hurt takes over. Have open conversations with them in those moments about what they need from you at that time.
And when they rant on Facebook or Instagram about how “silly” all of this is and how frustrated they are, just give them a little bit of grace. We’ve all been there before.
4. Check in On Them
Their feelings are going to change drastically throughout the days and weeks ahead. Make sure you’re checking in on the young people you love and seeing how they’re doing. Sometimes just knowing that someone cares is enough to help them feel loved and heard.
Make a phone call, send a text. Even consider entering their world a little bit and connecting with them where they connect most.
Middle school and high school students have been crazy for months over a new app called TikTok. So I finally downloaded it onto my phone the other day. I still have no clue how to use it, but if it’ll make the middle school and high school students in my life smile because I connected with them, however embarrassing it may be, then it’ll be worth it.
5. Pray for Them and With Them
Prayer is the most important thing that any of us can be doing right now. We need to be praying for our country, our world, the people on the frontlines of everything going on, and for those who are sick.
Make sure you’re lifting up the young people in your life too. Make sure you’re talking to God about them. And even try sitting down with them and praying together. You will be surprised at what the power of prayer can do.
We are not living in an easy time. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t come together and love each other even now as the body of Christ is supposed to. In fact, now, more than ever, we need to spread God’s love to everyone in our lives.