On September 4th, Dr. Camilo Ortiz and Ms. Lenore Skenazy wrote an opinion piece in The New York Times called This Simple Fix Could Help Anxious Kids. Dr. Ortiz, a psychologist, is an associate professor of psychology at Long Island University. Ms. Skenazy is the president of the nonprofit Let Grow and the author of “Free-Range Kids.”
Their premise is that since the mid-1980s, parenting has changed to over-protect and over-schedule children. This change correlates directly with the increase in mental health issues such as depression and anxiety among children. The authors surmise that our overprotected children are scared of the world and their ability to navigate it without parental help. When I was growing up, and probably for many of you, my parents let me go play with my friends for hours at a time and in the summer, I would be gone all day playing, exploring, and learning about the world and relationships.
A recent All Things Considered segment covered a related topic about the decline of independent play and children’s health. Peter Gray, the lead author of a commentary published in the Journal of Pediatrics, noted that “what was normal parenting before the 1980s of just sending your kids outdoors to play began to be regarded as negligent parenting because of the fear that something terrible would happen to them.” He added that he defines play as “where children decide what they're going to do, control what they're going to do, and solve the problems as they're doing it. That's how children develop the kinds of character traits that allow them to ultimately become independent adults.”
Sometimes what we think is best in the moment is not the best long-term for our children. No parent wants to see their child in pain, bullied, or worse, but there is a need to balance that fear with the impact of our protective umbrella over our children’s development. These researchers don’t have all the answers, and more studies are being done, but as parents, we should be thinking about this issue in our fight to improve the mental health of our children.
Take care and stay safe.
The Running Grave: A Cormoran Strike Novel by Robert Galbraith
Private Detective Cormoran Strike is contacted by a worried father whose son, Will, has gone to join a religious cult in the depths of the Norfolk countryside. The Universal Humanitarian Church is, on the surface, a peaceable organization that campaigns for a better world. Yet Strike discovers that beneath the surface there are deeply sinister undertones, and unexplained deaths. In order to try to rescue Will, Strike's business partner, Robin Ellacott, decides to infiltrate the cult, and she travels to Norfolk to live incognito among its members. But in doing so, she is unprepared for the dangers that await her there or for the toll it will take on her.