by Jeff Baxter

Current kids, teens, and college-aged students who have been through the Covid-19 Pandemic are making history. Some have called the coming generation, “The Pandemic Population.” {Reference 1} This generation has been part of a very different world and are still kids or in the middle of adolescent development.

Most social researchers would say the Millennial generation were most significantly marked by September 11, 2001, but now they are enduring ongoing distress like mass shootings, racial tensions, political elections, and the COVID-19 pandemic. The 9/11 tragedy was horrific, but it took place on a specific day, in specific locations of New York City and Washington D.C., which we could visit, remember, and grieve.

Years ago I walked through the memorial space reading names and seeing the two spaces where the buildings used to be, now bottomless waterfalls to think about and pray for those lives lost on this day. The coronavirus, on the other hand, has been a slow, sinister infection that’s migrated around the world, stealing jobs, lives, and routines along the way. Most of all, it has stolen our mental health as parents. I am sure you are affirming my words! But this time in history has also impacted our kids deeply. We will not know how deeply for years to come.

Four words and phrases summarize (so far) the times we are in: Pandemic, Protest, Presidential Elections, and Panic Attacks.

As my parents and grandparents used to say, “there is nothing new under the sun” and it’s true to a degree. Although these times are different, it is not the first time tragedy and chaos has been in our world. As we look back in the past, one of our hardest hit economic downturns was between 1929-1933. We called it the Great Depression. Most economists say, it didn’t officially end until 1941. When you take a look at comparing the “Silent Generation” (1929-1945) with the current “Generation Z” (2001-2018), you find many similarities. Both had 2 or 3 economic slumps, suicide increased, food was scarce at some level (meat during the pandemic) and unemployment rose.

As I have read about the Great and Silent Generations, I have discovered many life lessons which got them through The Great Depression as children. I think we can learn the same lessons today as parents, teachers, coaches and church leaders.

1 | Be humble

One of the consistent virtues of the Silent Generation during The Great Depression was humility. They realize they are just small pieces of a larger puzzle. There was very little arrogance among them. They kept their heads down and kept going.

2 | Be grateful

This past generation understood there were other people who played a part in their progress. They realize that while they worked hard, they did not reach their goals alone. It was a team effort. We, as well as the next generation, should recognize the same. We need one another.

3 | Be a good worker

Senior citizens understand deeply what working hard is all about. Everyone knew it was the measuring stick for an employee. The Silent Generation were taught as adults never to play the victim card.

4 | Be kind

This past generation learned to take care of one another during the dark days of World War II and the Great Depression. They’re marked by acts of service and giving what was extra to neighbors. They were extra kind.

5 | Be resilient

The Great Depression kids learned to bounce back after hardship, as they endured several societal setbacks as they grew up. Grit and resilience were normal and expected.

6 | Be resourceful

Because most didn’t enjoy lots of resources between 1929 and 1945, they had to learn to be resourceful. They made much out of little and discovered how to make life work.

The Tools Parents and Teachers Used to Develop Kids

Another aspect I noticed in the remarks from these Great Depression veterans was that the adults who led them embraced three common practices as they led the next generation:

Limited amount of world exposure

One advantage of the Great Depression was the absence of a 24/7 news cycle. Many said they didn’t even know they were living in a depression era. Times were hard but that was normal. Today, we’d do well to ensure kids are not consuming constant updates on COVID-19 (or politics or protests), which may only increase their anxiety. Kids who are exposed to calamity for many hours fare worse; the ones who have a limited amount early on, fare better. Today, too much media coverage can be harmful. I believe we must put boundaries on the amount of news “loops” our kids watch (and conversations which follow). The key? Watch 30 to 60 minutes of news updates and get on with your day.

Calm and loving leaders

Each one of the Great Depression kids spoke of adults in their lives who were genuinely concerned about their personal and emotional welfare. In an article on the COVID-19’s impact on kids, Diana Divecha explained, “When uncertainty or danger strikes, children are ‘wired’ to look to their caregivers to interpret how safe they should feel. If their primary adult is calm, a child feels reassured. But if their adult is upset, the child feels unsafe, and their body and brain go into threat mode. And when the threat system is on too long without relief, physical and mental health problems can result.” {Reference 2} The key is for kids to have an adult who continues normal routines, providing security and order amidst what may feel like chaos. Playing games. Doing chores. Eating meals. Sleeping on schedule. Recent research found that the presence of a calm adult can even reduce the levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, in a child’s body {Reference 3}. This means you must practice self-care to offer this kind of calm leadership in times of uncertainty.

Caregivers with high belief and expectations

Great Depression kids speak of the high expectations adults had of children back then. Resilience was expected in hard times, and belief was offered by either a parent or teacher. Research bears out that both expectations and belief play a huge role in a student’s behavior. If you expect a lot but don’t believe in them, it feels harsh. (Like a tiger mom who demands her child master the violin before dinner). But belief minus expectation feels hollow (like parents who pass out participation trophies for simply putting on a uniform). One feels harsh; the other feels hollow. When communicated together, the two were life-changing for the Great Depression generation. The combination is found in the tough feedback faculty gave to students on an assignment: “I’m giving you this feedback because I have high expectations of you, and I know you can reach them.” Expectations and belief.

During this unpredictable time, parenting is difficult. I am reminded by the prophet’s wise words concerning the Lord’s ways. He writes,

“‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” | Isaiah 55:8-9

Sometimes we don’t understand what is happening outside in the world, but we can be proactive with what is happening inside our homes trusting God is in control while we love our kids through this strange time.

Citations and References

1 | Tim Elmore, The Pandemic Population: Eight Strategies to Help Generation Z Rediscover Hope After Coronavirus
2 | Article By Diana Divecha, Will the Pandemic Have a Lasting Impact on My Kids?
3 | InBrief: Early Childhood Mental Health,


✍️ Credit :: Jeff Baxter
Next Gen Pastor

Matt Rhodes

📸 Credit :: Matt Rhodes
🎨 Credit :: Matt Rhodes
Creative Associate Director