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Note: Mark your calendars for our upcoming “Axis Town Hall!” Get an early preview of upcoming resources and weigh in on how we can serve you better! Join us Monday, April 15th at 7pm Mountain Time using this Zoom link! 

1.  Incelpilled

What it is: Many of today’s most popular slang terms are largely borrowed and adapted from the online community of “involuntary celibates,” also known as incels.
Why it’s happening: A professional linguist explains that Gen Z and Gen Alpha are embracing slang suffixes like “-maxxing” and “-pilled.” Much of today’s slang has a circuitous, meme-filled origin story on its path to a bigger audience. Often a word or phrase will incubate in fringe online spaces, move onto Reddit forums, jump to TikTok, and then eventually end up being used during in-person conversations (by which point, the cool factor has significantly dissipated). But the use of these terms isn’t meant to convey belonging or even agreement with the incel way of thinking. Teens who adopt this slang do so as a way to signal belonging to their own subculture, just like teens always have. Parents should understand that for the vast majority of teens using these words, they’re being used jokingly and with a tongue-in-cheek irony. [For an up-to-date list of Gen Z slang, check out our Parent Guide to Teen Slang!]
Continue the conversation: How often do you hear people talking about “-maxxing” or getting “-pilled”?

2. Worried Sick

What it is: An editorial in The New York Times wonders if parents who are worried about their young adult children having anxiety are actually exacerbating the problem, particularly as teens transition to college.
Why parents have anxiety about anxiety: Readers of this newsletter already know that teens and young adults are reporting a sharp increase in a range of mental health conditions. But as this op-ed suggests, anxiety about our teens’ anxiety isn’t necessarily helping them learn to cope. Parents worry over the amount that their kids are (or are not) worrying, which creates a self-perpetuating cycle that feeds anxiety for everybody. Some responses to this opinion piece found that the writer, a mental health professional at Boston College, was being willfully ignorant to the real dangers teens face as they transition to campus life. Other readers said they appreciated the call for a common sense approach to parental guidance, which makes room for unpleasant emotions as a normal part of early adulthood.
Continue the conversation: How can we tell the difference between “normal” feelings of anxiety and true mental health issues?

3. Trade’s Cool

What it is: Young people are avoiding educational debt by foregoing college and pursuing a career in the trades, instead.
Why it’s happening: The National Student Clearinghouse reports that enrollment in trade-focused vocational schools increased by 16% in 2023. Fields like welding and electricity are enticing new high school grads, with the promise of job security, a living wage, health benefits, and retirement contributions. Some policy experts see this trend as a reaction to skyrocketing college tuition costs, which have risen about 40% over the past 20 years. Enrollment in colleges has been declining since 2011.
Continue the conversation: Do you hear a lot of people talking about going to trade school instead of college?

Song/Slang/Resource of the Week

 “Lock in”: “Lock in” is meant both earnestly and ironically, and it means that it’s time to stop being silly, focus up, and seriously try something. (It’s the verbal equivalent of leaning forward while playing Mario Kart, which is affectionately called the “gamer lean.”) Although it may not be a wholly new term, it’s become a staple for athletes and gamers especially. That being said, there are times when everyone and anyone will need to lock in, whether it’s writing a paper due in thirty minutes, finishing a project for work, or asking your crush out.

Deep Dive: “Older” by Lizzy McAlpine

Singer-songwriter, Gen Z darling, and noted sad girl Lizzy McAlpine’s newest album, “Older,” is a bit of a bummer. It’s not surprising; her last album “Five Seconds Flat” was filled with themes of loneliness, regret, and the pain of being betrayed. “Older” meditates on the fear of growing up and the complicated emotions that arise out of a toxic relationship.

This kind of existential and personal sadness appeals to a greater sense of nihilism and ennui that Gen Z might sometimes resonate with. Climate concerns, political upheaval, and social media access can all contribute to young people’s pessimism, and if you add that to the general emotional rollercoaster that is adolescence, it makes perfect sense that sad music would resonate with them.

It’s hard to see the young people we love wrestling with pain, and the instinct to ease it is not a bad one. But sadness is not only natural, it’s biblical. Scripture makes enormous amounts of space for mourning in all its forms. Jesus Himself weeps for the loss of a friend. He is anguished in anticipation of pain and at the deep sense of divine abandonment He felt on the cross.

Even if everything in life is going perfectly—which it rarely is—Christians spend our entire earthly lives attuned to the heartbreak caused by a beautiful world steeped in sin. As the Holy Spirit opens our eyes to the glory of God, we become even more acutely aware of the desolation of His creation, and mourning is the right response to that.

Gen Z’s insistence on feeling their feelings, even the uncomfortable ones, can be an invitation to step out of the ameliorative methods our culture offers to blunt our sadness. As parents and caring adults, we should accept that invitation and join the teens we love in their heartbreak, but we can also bring hope with us. When this life of pain is over, the Father of Lights will be ready to receive us.

For the full episode on “Older,” click here. In the meantime, here are three questions to help spark conversation with your teens:

  • Do you feel like your generation wrestles more or less with sadness than previous generations? Either way, why?
  • What does the Bible say about our sadness?
  • What do you think is the best way to respond to sadness?