Listening to Parental Anxiety

Sitting in a room full of middle school parents, I could hear the anxiety in their voices as they answered the facilitator’s questions. She asked, “What’s wrong with your kids today?” “What do you think your kids are messing up about?” and “Why do you think kids today are so far off-course?”

Given the opportunity to vent freely, many of these mothers and fathers let loose with their parental anxieties.

Attending this workshop sponsored by a local school district, I learned a lot, but probably not on what they intended. Focused on how to help young people today, I was curious what approach the facilitator would take to working with parents, how effective it would be, and whether my conclusions about these types of approaches were as applicable as they were 20 years ago when I first attended workshops like this.

So much uncertainty and sadness surrounded me. I heard the frustrations and wrestling of everyday folks struggling through modern cultural norms, giving into old shared beliefs, and sacrificing their knowledge at the feet of one of my community’s recognized experts. This room was packed for two hours as this expert facilitated a back-and-forth dialogue. What I heard during this conversation was the stoking of fears, the affirmations of limitations, and the wholesale short-selling of young people today.

Rather than asking parents to acknowledge their own shortcomings or build their conveniently displaced wisdom, this expert upheld negative media portrayals, biased research conclusions and typically absolutist deductions about young people today. It was as if their abilities, inabilities, capacities and possibilities were out the window, and instead of “Youth are the future” these parents were taught that youth is wasted on the young, and that adults need to be the directors of all interactions, all beliefs and all activities of the young.

This is just my first download from the event; next I’ll analyze this and write about how to counter parental anxiety.


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Published by Adam F.C. Fletcher

I'm a speaker and writer who researches, writes and shares about youth, education, and history. Learn more about me at

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