Irrational and Rational Fears

Irrational and Rational Fears

Are you afraid of monsters?

How many parents hover over their kids for fear they’ll be kidnapped? How often do you worry about flying? How many parents worry about school shootings?

Tons. Right.

Yet, how probable are these?

The chance a kid will be kidnapped by a stranger this year is about 1/620,000 (100 out of 62,000,000 kids). For comparison, there’s a 1/500,000 chance he’ll be struck by lightning.

Planes are incredibly safe, there’s 72 times greater chance that you’ll die going on a trip with your car than going on a flight. If you count it per mile, the chances are 625,000 times greater that you’ll die in a car crash.

A kid has between a 1/3,333,333 and 1/1,4000,000 chance of getting shot to death at school. To give you perspective, a kid is 3 to 6 times more likely to be struck by lightening and NASA scientists give a 1/111,111 that asteroid 2012 VE77 will hit the earth between 2033 and 2035.

We fear these irrational things but we spend little time on much more probable fears. Teens are much more likely to:

  • Use hard drugs. 5.3% of teens report having used Cocaine.
  • Lose their virginity. Over half of teens do so before graduating high school. By college, 2/3 report being in a “friends with benefits” relationship (they have sex but it isn’t a romantic relationship).
  • Consider suicide. About 1.3% of teens 15-19 consider suicide each year, about 1/7,500 actually kills him or herself.
  • Fight physically with others. 1/7 in grade 9-12 will get in a physical fight this year.
  • Die by car accident. This is the #1 cause of teenage death and accounts for about 35% of teenage deaths.
  • Go to hell. We can’t do statistics. Even though I hope that each person reaches heaven, I’m guessing the probability of going to hell is more that 1/620,000.
  • Leave the Church. Nearly 80% of cradle Catholics have left the Church by age 23. In fact, according to Pew Research, the most likely way a cradle Catholic maintains a strong faith and weekly attendance at Church is by becoming Protestant.
Irrational and Rational Fears

Here’s a rational fear

We in the Church provide a great way to help teens with these rational fears. However, we so often lose out because parents are over-concerned about the things that are so unlikely. It’s irrational but it’s natural because such things get big news. For this reason, many parents don’t buy in and don’t encourage their teens to do service projects, show up at youth group, or make it out to a retreat.

How can we help parents see the rational fears above the irrational ones?

I’m not 100% sure. I want to present a few ideas and hopefully the comment section can be a place for you to share your brainstorming.

  • Try to match your youth ministry with any parenting ministry. If there’s a parents’ group (even if for parents of teeny-weenie kids) show up occasionally, explain such things and invite them to send their kids to youth ministry activities. (They may have older kids or for the very least you’ll plant a seed for the future.)
  • Have a parents’ night. And don’t just explain the practical aspects. Invite an older parent or someone who they respect to explain real and irrational hopes and fears.
  • Do crazy but safe stuff with teens. Parents might worry that you’ll injure their kids – and if you injure any kids that fear is no longer irrational.
  • Help teens and parents develop a relationship with Jesus. This will protect them from the fear-mongering that sometimes happens in the media. One teen is kidnapped in town and the search is in the news for 2 weeks or a month.
  • Help them realize there’s nothing you can do to avoid school shootings or plane crashes (they’re pretty much random). However they can keep their kids from the rational fears through such simple things as eating a meal a day with them. They are proven to reduce teen drug use and sexual behaviour.
  • Focus on the positive! This is key as many Catholics today can focus on the laws, or how people are not living up to what they should be. Instead, encourage teens to be what they are called to be.

Our youth ministry won’t help prevent teens from being struck by lightning but it should help them develop a relationship with Jesus.

(Yes, this is a follow-up to last week’s blog on over-protective parents.)

Fr Matthew P. Schneider, LC

Teens need to experience Christ. I am a Catholic religious priest with the Legion of Christ who tries to help them do that. Part of doing that is running this blog. Currently I'm stationed in the DC Metro area preparing material for RCSpirituality.org (Regnum Christi Spirituality Center), studying an advanced Theology degree, and helping youth ministry freelance.


Fr Matthew P. Schneider, LC


Teens need to experience Christ. I am a Catholic religious priest with the Legion of Christ who tries to help them do that. Part of doing that is running this blog. Currently I'm stationed in the DC Metro area preparing material for RCSpirituality.org (Regnum Christi Spirituality Center), studying an advanced Theology degree, and helping youth ministry freelance.



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