Let’s start small. Those of us who are in consistent relationships with young people (parents, teachers, youth ministers, campus ministers, etc.) know that something has changed. Some current data shows that the young people of the iGen (short for i-Generation and sometimes called Generation Z), a generation that has spent their lives connected to the smartphone, are hanging out with friends less, dating less, sleeping less, and feeling much more lonely.
What do these trends reveal about teens and their relationship with God?
Jean Twenge, PhD, noticed in her study that teens are more connected to their smart phones which is creating feelings of loneliness. Because iGen is engaging in less and less in-person time with one another, the trend toward depression has grown exponentially. More and more psychologists are seeking ways to help young people create patterns and practices that combat the loneliness and depression that presently engulfs iGen.
Within the well-equipped toolbox of Catholic spirituality and prayer, we are gifted with the work of a genius knight from the 15th century. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Spiritual Exercises, provides a tool for reconnecting to God and combating loneliness and depression for iGen.
When we are able to notice the patterns of our lives and change the habits that bring us loneliness, we can more clearly remind ourselves of the God who created us, loves us, and walks with us daily.
But let’s start small.
First, let us remind not just our young people (iGen), but, ourselves that we are living, breathing humans with feelings, emotions, and desires! If you aren’t already doing a daily Examen, click here to start today. Notice the movements of God in your daily life.
YOU must do the work! You cannot teach or model something that you do not practice.
Second, get in the practice of having your young people recapture their day by asking simple questions at the dinner table or in the car as you drive them from place to place:
What happened at school today?
How did you feel when that happened?
What were some of the good things that happened today?
What were some of the bad things that happened today?
How did that make you feel?
(Pro tips: Let them talk. Do not create the words for them. Silence is okay. Give them time to respond.)
Third, give them a tool to pray the Examen and journal how God is moving in their lives. See the tools below.
Looking for more?
- The Examen: Praying the Examen with Teens
- There is an app for that! Look for the app written by Fr. Mark E. Thibodeaux, SJ click here!
- Or, order the book, Reimagining the Examen by Fr. Mark E. Thibodeaux, SJ
- Print out an Examen card here.
- Look at this Ted Talk from Jean Twenge, PhD writer of the book Gen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy – and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood – and What That Means for the Rest of Us