||Subject: 12-year-old worried about the
I was shocked the other day when my twelve-year-old daughter
remarked, "I'm not going to live past the year 2000. Everybody says
terrible things are going to happen." We live in a part of the U.S.
that is heavily populated with people who believe we're in the biblical
"end times," but from what I've gathered, this belief is
rampant all across the country. My concern is with the effect this must
be having on the children, yet no one seems to address this issue. I
remember growing up with the fear of a nuclear war, but at least that
was indefinite. This idea comes with dates and horrific descriptions of
disasters, and headlines blaring from every tabloid in the supermarket.
Do you have any insights about what our children may be experiencing,
and how to counteract the ill effects of this "millennial
Thank you for writing about this timely concern. As we approach the
year 2000, the "Y2K" computer problem and other kinds of fears
are generating more and more dire predictions and even panic. While
computer malfunctions will inevitably bring some degree of inconvenience
and frustration while programs are being fixed, this type of problem is
easy to overestimate, and because it is happening at the end of a
millenium, can lend itself to apocalyptic fears. It is interesting to
note that the year 1000 also brought about many kinds of panic reactions
and group hysteria. It seems to be part of the human condition to fear
such dates, even though they are, after all, man-made and arbitrary.
Many families are beginning to make preparations, such as stocking up
on food and other necessities, and to express their fears and worries
about the nature and duration of the effects of the computer problem on
our lives. Even when undertaken by loving parents, these kinds of
preparations can be frightening to children, who are unable to
understand the problem, let alone the solution.
Fortunately, there are knowledgeable writers who are speaking out to
help keep these matters in perspective. I especially recommend "The Millenium Thought Contagion" by Aaron Lynch, author of the best-selling book Thought
Contagion: How Belief Spreads Through Society (Basic Books, 1996).
Links to related articles and to a German translation of Aaron's article
As with any other kind of frightening situation, it's important for
us as parents to stay informed and to encourage our children to discuss
their fears by taking their feelings seriously, listening respectfully
to their worries and concerns, and offering reassurance and