Why are kids getting anxious -- so anxious that a CDC survey found 32 percent of teens reporting persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness?
NPR asked two authors who turned out to have the same hunch we have: Without time to do anything on their own -- unstructured, unsupervised, unassisted, ungraded -- kids feel the same way adults do when micro-managed: Miserable.
First NPR quotes Katherine Reynolds Lewis, author of The Good News About Bad Behavior:
"Two or three decades ago, children were roaming neighborhoods in mixed-age groups, playing pretty unsupervised," Lewis says. And this kind of parent-free play helped them develop important skills they'd use for the rest of their lives. "They were able to resolve disputes. They planned their time. They managed their games. They had a lot of autonomy, which also feeds self-esteem and mental health."
These days, though, free play is on the decline, Lewis says, and so are the social and emotional skills that come with it. Part of the problem, according to Lewis, is parents who worry that unsupervised play is just too risky. But the risk is part of the point — for kids "to have falls and scrapes and tumbles and discover that they're okay. They can survive being hurt."
In other words: an obsession with safety carries its own risks.
NPR then quotes William Stixrud, author of The Self-Driven Child, who has come up with a statement we need to needlepoint on the pillow of the couch that is our brains. (Huh??? Sorry -- no coffee yet today.) Anyways, it's:
"To build self-control, we need to stop controlling children."
That doesn't mean we stop instructing them or giving them boundaries. Only that we don't assume the only safe child is a child constantly under the control of an adult.
We have to trust our kids to make good choices and bad choices, too, as kids always have. As they fix things, they grow.
Over-protection down. Anxiety down. - L.
Photo by Joseph Gonzalez at Unsplash, @miracletwentyone