Study after study have shown that childhood anxiety and depression have spiked in recent years. However, you can also see it in media produced by and for adolescents, from pop songs to endless anxiety memes. What’s going on?
Journalist Kate Julian — "the mother of two children, 6 and 10, whose lineage includes more than its share of mental illness” — quickly benches the common answer of too much screen time. In short, “The problem with kids today is also a crisis of parenting today.”
Julian joins therapists around the country who are flocking to Yale’s Child Study Center to receive training in SPACE (Supportive Parenting for Anxious Childhood Emotions), a parenting model that seeks to reduce “accommodating” behaviors — “[t]he everyday efforts we make to prevent kids’ distress—minimizing things that worry them or scare them, assisting with difficult tasks rather than letting them struggle”. Around 95 percent of parents of anxious children engage in these behaviors.
If modern parents are so unrelentingly on top of things, why have we not corrected course? Could it be that we are not at all on top of things? Might our children’s faltering mental health be related less to our hard-driving style than to our exhaustion and guilt and failure to put our foot down? We complain about kids being thin-skinned and susceptible to peer pressure, but maybe we’re the ones who are hypersensitive, to the judgment of our peers and, especially, of our children. And the harder we try to do the right thing—the more we nurture them, the more quickly we respond to their needs—the more we tie ourselves in knots.
Read or listen to “Childhood in an Anxious Age” over at The Atlantic.