What it is: Facebook groups and WhatsApp chats for parents of college-aged students are becoming a landing pad for parents anxious about their children’s higher education experiences.
What, exactly, is going on: Some colleges and universities proactively create groups for parents to join to share information with each other. These groups are meant to increase a family’s satisfaction with the school experience. But niche-specific groups, like ones for parents of pledges in a certain fraternity, or parents of students living in a certain dorm, tend to be run by the parents themselves. The groups provide an outlet for parents feeling the tension between fostering independence and letting their kids go. “Figuring out what I should do for my son and what he can do for himself has been a struggle for me since before he went to college,” admitted one interviewee in The Cut. Students seem mostly fine with their parents lodging complaints, asking which professors are most challenging, and crowdsourcing a name for a barber in their new town—so long as they don’t overstep and intervene in a public way.
Start the conversation: Would you be embarrassed if your mom or dad was in a group of other parents at your college? Why or why not?
2. Generation Expat
What it is: Preply.com asked 3,000 Gen Zers in the US whether they see their future in America, or abroad. Those surveyed were more likely to see a future in another country than in the country of their birth.
What it could mean: The survey didn’t just ask students whether or not they wanted to leave the United States. They got granular and asked them why. 59% said they were influenced by the gun violence epidemic, and over a quarter cited social programs such as universal healthcare. The United Kingdom, Canada, and Japan ranked highest for desirability in terms of Gen Z’s big move, and 66% even said they would be comfortable starting a family abroad. It’s a small survey with a limited sample size, but it does seem indicative of some larger conclusions—particularly as those surveyed said they felt this desire increasing, not decreasing, as they grew older.
Start the conversation: Is there another country or area of the world where you could envision yourself living long-term?
3. Born to Serve?
What it is: Do eldest daughters hold a uniquely difficult space in the family dynamic? #oldestdaughter and #eldestdaughterproblems are TikTok trends examining the possibility.
What psychologists say: The “oldest daughters” sharing their experiences on TikTok feel unduly put upon. They express feeling a level of responsibility in their family that other siblings didn’t seem expected to share. These daughters say they acted as a de facto babysitter for their siblings, served as their mother’s therapist, and were expected to perform an outsized proportion of family chores while still children themselves. But is this a real phenomenon? Possibly. Studies indicate that daughters tend to carry more domestic responsibility within a family, as does the firstborn child in a family. So it stands to reason that being both things might have unique challenges. Whether or not the eldest daughter will have a negative experience as a result of their birth order depends on their individual family situation.
Start the conversation: Do you think that the way responsibility in our family is distributed is fair? What might make it better?
Song of the Week
“Lovin on Me” by Jack Harlow: Rapper, actor, and TikTok star Jack Harlow is back on the music scene with a new single. The song is essentially a foray into Harlow’s love life, including some explicit descriptions of his sexual activities. In a sound bite from the chorus that is now a TikTok trend with 250 million views, he celebrates his preference for “vanilla” bedroom activities. (It’s worth noting that Harlow still promotes the sort of sexual violence that modern pornography has tried to normalize.) From a musical perspective, the song is catchy and danceable, but from a lyrical perspective, it falls far short of God’s intentions for sexual intimacy. For lyrics, click here (explicit language and sexual content).
Talking with Gen Z About Identity, Belonging, and Purpose
“Identity, belonging, and purpose aren’t just young people questions, they’re people-people questions,” says Dr. Kara Powell, the Executive Director of the Fuller Youth Institute at Fuller Theological Seminary. “All of us deal with [questions about] identity, belonging, and purpose. [But] for those of us over 30, they’re more at a low simmer, whereas for children, teenagers, and young adults under 30, they’re more at a rolling boil.”
As Christians, we believe that the deepest, most satisfying answers to these questions are always found in a relationship with Jesus. In Colossians 2:3, the Apostle Paul refers to Jesus as the one “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” When we struggle with our sense of identity, and feel like we’re not “_____ enough,” Jesus makes us more than enough. When we struggle to find a sense of belonging, Jesus offers us the confidence of belonging to Him. When we struggle to find a sense of purpose or meaning—or we wrestle with whether we’re “in God’s will”—a relationship with Jesus re-centers us on the idea of living a life of love, toward God and others.
As parents and caring adults, we can recognize that the desire to answer these questions drives a lot of teen behavior—including the things our teens do that we don’t understand, or even disapprove of. As Dr. Powell puts it, “When your kid is doing something that just feels a little askew—it just feels a little off, it’s a little bit not like them… take a step back and say, ‘Okay, what are they hungry for? Are they trying to find their identity? Are they trying to find their belonging? Are they trying to find their purpose?’” Once we’re able to identify the deeper need underneath their decisions, we’ll be in a better position to ask the right questions, and keep the conversation going.
For the full interview with Dr. Powell, check out the Wednesday episode of our Culture Translator podcast. In the meantime, here are three questions to spark conversation about identity, belonging, and purpose with your teens:
- In your school/community, what does it mean to be “normal”?
- When and where do you feel safest to be your true self?
- Dr. Powell shares this quote from Howard Thurman: “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” What do you think of that statement? Do you agree or disagree?