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CNN’s Smerconish Asks Let Grow: “How Does Independence Boost Kids’ Mental Health?”

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Read Time: 2 minutes

“American kids are growing up in a culture that has told their parents to worry about everything, so parents are always supposed to be with their kids. That’s what’s new. And this constant supervision seems to be driving kids crazy.” — Lenore Skenazy, President, Let Grow

On his CNN show this Saturday, Michael Smerconish told viewers he’d been exploring every angle of the youth mental health crisis…when it came to the impact of social media.

But the angle interesting him on Saturday was something else: How the lack of independence and free play in kids’ lives might be a “stealth” contributor to kids’ unhappiness. He wondered if giving them back the chance to do a little more on their own could be a quick but effective fix.

Lenore of course said that’s exactly what independence is — bracing! Invigorating! Hope-giving! Right now, kids are stunted by “safetyism.” Lenore read aloud some quotes from suburban 7th graders talking about activities they’d like to do but had not tried yet — at age 12 or 13:

*I was hesitant to try walking my dog alone because I was scared that he would get loose from the leash or a scary man would take me.

*I was afraid to try and cook because there’s an open flame and I could get hurt.

*I was hesitant to use a sharp knife as my parents had never let me before.

That IS anxiety, said Lenore: The fear of not being able to handle things.

But when schools give students The Let Grow Project (the free homework assignment that tells kids, “Go home and do something new, on your own!”) things change fast. The fact that The Project is homework makes it easy for parents to step back. That allows the kids to see for themselves — and show their parents — just how competent they can be. And from competence grows confidence!

Watch the Smerconish-Skenazy 6-minute interview by clicking here!

Smerconish Screenshot 2 Person


  1. MarkMark says:
  2. MarkMark says:

    Bravo! Is the anxiety so new, or rather the stifling reaction from adults and kids alike? I/we were NOT overly confident w/ much of my activity, my parents’ own activities. We expected to encounter much failure in learning: expanding our abilities, activities, where boundaries belonged, where/when we should push past them. Much I hadn’t mastered or perhaps hadn’t tried at all. But we didn’t knee-jerk capitulate to coinciding fears, never pushing ourselves, barely letting kids HAVE a progressive upbringing. Leaving us dangerously unprepared to navigate what we’d likely encounter at some point. Including, e.g. first aid knowledge; navigating roads, traffic, vehicles. We were well aware that drunk drivers esp. were a menace, killing extended family; injuring my mother for life. But this didn’t keep us home, or me off my bicycle.