The American Dream lures people from all over the world, and it’s because of this possibility: If you come here and work hard, your kids will have a better life than you.

What if that weren’t true anymore?

Record debt, persistent joblessness, millions of underwater mortgages and a stock market that hasn’t gone anywhere in 10 years: For today’s kids who are entering the job market, it’s hardly a recipe for future success.

For parents who only want the best for their children, those prospects are like a wrenching pit in our stomachs. When such a central pillar of the American story is falling apart, frantic moms and dads hardly know what to think.

“My husband and I are terrified for our sons,” says Saideh Browne, a 40-year-old mom of two who heads up a speaker’s agency in New York City. “When they were born, we figured as long as we saved for college, they would be okay.

“But now, we can’t just tell them to go to school, get a good job, and retire at 65. We’ve had to rethink parenting, and it hasn’t been easy. We’re encouraging them to learn a trade, and hope it all works out before the economy tanks further.”