Future Kids: How to raise a new generation in an uncertain world

Today’s guest post is another excellent and thoughtful article from Ellen Jackson. Ellen is a coaching psychologist at Potential Psychology Services and she writes tbe Potential Psychology Blog. You can read previous posts of Ellen’s on Planning With Kids here and if you are yet to check out her blog I recommend taking a look at these recent posts:


Hands up if you worry about social media and where it’s leading young hearts and minds? Drug use? Societal collapse? The state of the planet? Are you apprehensive about the future and how you’re going to successfully guide your family through it?

Wouldn’t it be great if you could transplant your family back in time to ‘your day’ when life was less complicated? Easier? Safer?

We all get freaked out by uncertainty and not knowing what’s to come. It’s a unique yet challenging aspect of being human. Experiments have shown that people would rather receive an electric shock right now and get it out of the way than worry about whether they might receive one later on. How’s that for fear of the future?

As parents we are forever embroiled in worry about what’s ahead of our children and much of that uncertainty stems from fear of change and our lack of control. Humans are wired up with a strong desire for certainty over our lives and destiny. We want to be able to predict what will happen and to feel safe and assured that everything will be alright. It’s natural for parents to worry about their children’s future as it‘s something over which we have limited control.

At the same time we look back on our childhoods as (mostly) secure, less threatening, simpler and safer. The past is a known quantity. We got through it, we survived. No matter what the challenges were, we have a sense of control over the past. It is never as scary as the future.

It makes sense then that we would want replicate our childhood for our children. At some unconscious level we’re saying, ‘As long as they grow up the way I did, everything will be okay,’

But we can’t go back. Social media is here to stay. Teenage lives will be filled with change and challenge. Society and its values will morph and shift and transform. The past is not better than the future. It’s just more knowable.

So how do you embrace change and look optimistically to your children’s future rather than cling to the past? How do adapt to today, wrangle some control, take the best of your past and merge it with a life and lifestyle that works for you and your kids?

Here are some ideas:

1. Work out what’s important to your family

It’s easy to be swayed by the media and the lives and opinions of those around us but we all flourish when we know and live by our values; not the values of those around us. Consider what you loved about your childhood that you’d like to replicate for your family. Are there underlying values that can be maintained while living with new technologies, social norms and lifestyles?

Family and the outdoors are paramount to my husband and I but often our kids are on the couch with the iPad. I baulk at this, but when I look closer they’re often cuddled together with the one screen, talking, giggling, sharing. There’s family right there. Sure enough after a while they get bored and go out and jump on the trampoline. I could get cranky and restrictive with the screens but I have faith that we’re modelling our values to our kids and they’re living those values in their own way.

2. Take one day at a time

During my first pregnancy, upon discovering I was having a boy, I had a mild freak out and told my dad how worried I was about successfully raising a boy to adulthood. Coming from a largely female family, boys were new to me and my head was filled with thoughts of male risk taking behaviour, accidents, fast cars and the like.

My dad simply said, ‘You’ll raise him like you raise all children, one day at a time.’

We cannot know what’s in store for our kids and anticipation is often a source of big anxiety. Our world will continue to change. New threats and challenges will emerge. Worrying about it will not change it, nor will clinging to the past. Focus on today and the needs of your kids here and now. We all benefit from keeping our minds in the present.

3. Embrace what’s new and exciting

In my final year at school I attended a career planning workshop. Most of the information given was standard and not particularly helpful but I’ve remembered one point to this day. We were told that our future careers most likely did not exist yet.

As an optimist I found this prospect exciting and indeed there’s very little about my present career as positive psychologist and coach working largely online that existed even five years ago. I am living the future.

I try to adopt this optimistic philosophy in parenting too. Rather than fear the future and the change it will bring I try to focus on the exciting opportunities and possibilities that await our kids. Sure their childhood doesn’t look exactly as mine did but neither will their future. This article on new technology and play is a great example.

If you’re struggling to remain optimistic, spend a few minutes thinking about how society has improved in your life time. Opportunities for women, acceptance of greater social diversity, reduced road toll and improved medical treatment all come to mind.

Who knows what exciting possibilities await our kids?


Ellen is a coaching psychologist at Potential Psychology Services. She blogs, shares tips for happiness and wellbeing and articles on the science of human behaviour, runs online coaching courses and is a passionate believer in the importance of self awareness for success in every area of life.