There was a wonderful article in a recent Sunday New York Times Magazine about how more and more children are being crippled by anxiety. It told the story of a well-cared-for boy (they called him Jake) who did especially well in grade school. But, as he approached high school, he became paralyzed by his fears that he wouldn’t be able to reach goals as easily as he had when he was younger.
The article talks about other individuals, but Jake made an impression on me as he hid in his bedroom when it was time to go to school. I identified with him because when I was in 5th grade, my fear of failure was so overwhelming that I would set my alarm to do “homework” — I actually set my alarm for 5 a.m. when I was 11!!
What seemed to be the difference between the two of us was that I was never given a choice to stay home or go to school. I would fake illness when I couldn’t see my way clear to functioning, but most days when I felt that way, I just had to muddle through. I don’t want to minimize his anxiety or mine, but it has the raised the question of whether too many young people have more choices than they need. Am I right??
When I refer to choices I mean to include the constant communication that surrounds us every day. If I went through adolescence with a smart phone and the Internet I know I would have been much sicker much sooner.
When everything around you is changing, including your body, how can you stay balanced when your senses are bombarded every day? It is tough enough for adults, but kids are growing up with so much interruption and information flowing toward them, is it any surprise that more and more kids have developed paralyzing anxiety?
The issue is, “What do we do about it?”
I would love to hear your comments on this topic because I see so much anxiety that leads to depression (which I also suffered from in childhood, even without the Internet).
Maybe we need to listen more carefully in conversations with young people. At the same time, we should support who they are instead of jumping to medications when a child hits what I call a “speed bump.”
As an adult, I am purposeful about taking technology breaks and don’t allow myself to be available at all times. That just doesn’t seem sane to me.
Again, tell me what you think about how young people are coping as they mature.