Anxious teenagers and fearful living

There have been numerous social commentaries and television stories about the almost epidemic levels of anxiety in young people. Commentators have correctly pointed out the various social factors that are contributing to this anxiety: growing social inequality, sense of disconnection and loneliness, climate change, ability to access education, employment, a living wage. However there has always been social forces which undermines human dignity, injustice and indifference to life and that which deadens our wairua hence fear and anxiety.

Anxiety comes out of fear. What is it about living that is so fear inducing? While I get the need for such programs like Stranger Danger, I would suggest that programs like these and this world obsessed with risk aversion that deviantises risk taking has lead to children from a very early age perceiving the world as a fearful place.

Lets focus on encouraging children and young people to explore, to be curious, to have a sense of awe and splendour of the natural and social worlds and that kindness, compassion and gratefulness are normative and the source of strength rather than being seen as weakness.

Let's move from this constant pursuit of the idol called "happiness" to the pursuit of that which leads to a "satisfying life" so that even when I am plunged into sadness, misery or depression, I can anchor myself because my life is purposeful and meaningful and profoundly satisfying. Lets replace the discourse from despair to hopefulness, from futility and powerlessness to harnessing the power of social movements and action leading to change, from the self-punishing sense of shame arising from "stuffing up" to a heartfelt belief in forgiveness, restoration and redemption, from pursuit of perfection to the courage to fail and learn. Let us as adults emulate to young people vulnerable strength and be fallible heroes and champions and custodians of hope.

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