Catching Zs (Article)

CATCHING Zs (Article) by Abidan Shah, PhD

(Published in the newspaper Daily Dispatch, Henderson on March 24, 2023)

No, I’m not referring to taking a nap. I’m referring to understanding and reaching the generation born between 2000-2015, otherwise known as Z. They are often mislabeled, misunderstood, and mocked. Parents want to know how to motivate them. Educators want to know how to engage them. Youth leaders want to know how to reach them. Employers want to know how to hire them. Businesses want to know how to market to them. Unfortunately, they often get confused with their predecessors, the Millennials, those born between 1983-2000. Although there are similarities, Gen Z are their own cohort.

For starters, we need to understand that Gen Z has faced more crises than any previous generation: the bursting of the bubble at the start of the millennium; 9/11 and the horrific images of the World Trade Towers collapsing and the Pentagon burning; the Enron Crisis and the erosion of trust in big corporations; the War on Terror in Iraq and Afghanistan where many of our soldiers gave their lives; the coming of social media and the curse of being constantly connected; the Great Recession of 2007 which left many without jobs, homes, and savings; the prevalence of smartphones with instant and often unrestricted access to adult content, especially pornography; the ghastly images of ISIS assassinations; school shootings of innocent kids; deliberate division of our nation across racial and socio-economic lines; radical shift in traditional values regarding gender and sexuality; and who can forget the pandemic of 2020 with all the shut downs and restrictions accompanied with the riots and destruction of our major cities! Two-three years of our children’s lives have been ripped away and the damage lingers on. Of course, other generations faced these crises as well, but Gen Zs were just kids. I would venture to say that never has a generation faced as many crises or as frequently as Gen Z. They are being told that the world is full of problems, and it is up to them to solve them. If they don’t, then they are the problem. Is it any wonder that mental health has become a top priority, especially for our children and young adults!

Furthermore, parenting has also mutated. We’ve gone from being helicopter parents to snowplow or lawnmower parents. While helicopter parents were always hovering around their children at school and extra-curricular activities, snowplows are trying to remove every obstacle from their children’s paths and lawn movers are meticulously planning their children’s futures. Our intentions may be noble, but the consequences are detrimental. Tim Elmore, in his book “Generation Z Unfiltered: Facing Nine Hidden Challenges of the Most Anxious Population,” bemoans: “As parents, we’ve given them lots of possessions but not much perspective. As educators, we’ve given them plenty of schooling but not plenty of skills. As coaches, we’ve taught them how to win games but not how to win in life. As youth workers, we offer lots of explanations but not enough experiences. As employers, we’ve mentored them in profit and loss but not how to profit from loss.”

If we truly want to catch Zs, we must begin by valuing them. They have a lot to offer our world. In an increasingly technologically driven world, they are the most adept to face the challenges coming our way. Contrary to how they are often portrayed as lazy or weak, they are quite entrepreneurial and visionary. Some may be blue collar workers and others white collar but many see themselves as no collar workers, wanting to create their own employment and future. Of course, they need our guidance, but it must be done with wisdom and patience. They might very well be the Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego who will refuse to compromise in the face of temptations or the Esther who was willing to sacrifice her life for her people. I believe that this could be the generation that will turn the world right side up for Jesus Christ.

Leave a Reply

Powered by

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: