Anxiety is about as miserable a condition as you can get, and it is spreading among young people. As The Intell, a website for Bucks County, PA, reports:
For a growing number of children, going to school is becoming an insurmountable challenge. School absenteeism is posing an ever-greater concern as educators cite anxiety, depression and other mental health concerns among causes keeping kids at home.
While getting kids to school from time to time has long been a challenge, chronic absenteeism — sometimes referred to as “school refusal” — is something different, say teachers, counselors and social workers.
“Anxiety rates are significantly on the rise,” said Christine Marston, a Buckingham psychologist. “I’ve had a number of teens in therapy with me who have struggled with getting to school due to their anxieties.”
Kudos to the district for acknowledging and addressing the issue. It hired its first social worker after a survey of the biggest issues facing the schools, found that:
"Anxiety was the most prominent condition that students were reporting," [the district's special ed director] Speese said. “This results in anxiety-based behaviors such as chronic absenteeism, truancy and an overall disconnect with school attendance and performance — with our secondary schools presenting the largest percentage, 8 to 10 percent, of absenteeism due to these issues.”
That is a huge percent!
The culprits, according to the article, are the fact that kids face a lot of pressure, and that social media is always on. I'd add that we have taken away a natural depression and anxiety buster: free time for free play.
In play, the only pressure is to keep enjoying what you're doing. If you're playing a competitive game, that's up to you. The score does not go on your permanent record.
And if you're playing on your tippy toes instead of your feet, just for fun, that's up to you, too -- you are free to be goofy, to concentrate on something other than school, to be with your friends, be creative, be someone other than solely a student or Instagram account.
If we give kids time to play all through their youth, we are "dosing" them with something other than just social media and grades. So consider asking your school to start a free-play program before or after school. It's a safe place, with a critical mass of kids, and while playing they'll be off their phones. Win/win/win.
And of course, consider weaving more down time -- play time -- into every day.
Play is not just a break from school. It may be what our kids need to stay IN school. - Lenore
RX: More time for play, from the youngest ages through high school.