American Kids are Stressed

Yes, it’s true.  Those of you who are familiar with SchoolPulse know that we are trying to simplify life for busy families.  Our focus is on parents – including the parents who volunteer their time generously to lead extracurricular activities for their children – and we are focused on bringing some sanity to their busy schedules.

Over the past few days, I have developed a new sense of awareness of the unintended (and underappreciated) consequences on children.  Consider these experts:

  • “According to the most recent data, the lifetime prevalence for anxiety disorders as a whole in adults is about 25%; the frequency in children is unknown, but felt to be significantly underreported and under-diagnosed… What does seem to be developing in the medical literature is the consensus that many “adult” psychiatric disorders have their first (although perhaps subtle or ignored) manifestations in childhood.”  Source
  • “The combined prevalence of… anxiety disorders is higher than that of virtually all other mental disorders of childhood and adolescence (Costello et al., 1996). The 1-year prevalence in children ages 9 to 17 is 13 percent.”  Source
  • “If your child has too little free time, help him or her change his or her schedule to make time for relaxation and play… Parents may want to examine their own schedules. Often a parent’s hectic schedule will cause a child to be stressed or nervous about the things he or she is doing.”  Source

The evidence among families I know is decidedly less scientific, but no less alarming.  Over the past few days, my wife brought up the topic of childhood anxiety with four friends, and three of them (that’s 75%) revealed that one or more of their children had seen counselors for help with anxiety issues.  It’s no surprise, really.

  • Most public schools give kids 20 minutes or less to eat lunch.
  • Many kids participate in co- and extracurricular activities before and after school.
  • We are all too familiar with the challenge of assembling the whole family at meal times.
  • Weekends are a blur of sports, birthday parties, and play dates.
  • The quantity of homework heaped on students of all ages seems to increase every year

In short, our kids are constantly on the go and have very little downtime.  What they need is the opportunity to unwind, to relax, to hang around the house, to experience less structure in their lives.  Family time is highly valued because it is so scarce.  It’s a sad commentary on the age in which we live.

Until recently, I hadn’t really focused on the opportunity for SchoolPulse to improve the quality of our children’s lives, but you can be sure I will in the future.

** UPDATE ** The 10/31 Boston Globe carried an AP story saying that as many as 20% of American children and teens may be affected by anxiety disorders.

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2 Responses to American Kids are Stressed

  1. Bubba says:

    My wife and I raised four children, two of whom have become parents themselves (four and five children). My grandkids seem to be far busier and have far more stress than I remember their parents having growing up; and my kids were far busier than I was as a kid. The busy/stress trend has been up, up, up.

    Isn’t it time for families, i.e. children AND parents, to step off the treadmill and slow down? Just “hang out” more around the house? Easier said than done.

    School Pulse can help by increasing the efficiency of family dynamics, but the danger is that the time saved will be allocated to new activities, rather than much-needed
    family downtime.

    What if the country legislated “Downtime Week?” All play dates and participation in soccer, gymnastics, basketball, art classes, ballet, and all other organized activities would be prohibited for one week. School, work, and hanging out ONLY for one week. It would be like being on a home vacation. I wonder what would happen…I wonder if a family would even dare try it!

    Bubba

  2. Cassy says:

    My 5-year old son, whom is in Kindergarten has been diagnosed with Anxiety and Stress Induced OCD. He has a compulsion at picking hair in his nose or hands and picks fuzzies off his clothes, constantly (trichotillomania). He is currently on Sertraline (no success yet, it’s only been a couple of weeks) and he also takes Focalin XR for ADHD symptoms. It hurts to know my son is suffering from anxiety and he can’t tell me why he’s so stressed and anxious, because he doesn’t know what it means. And when you ask what’s bothering him, he says he’s fine and you know he’s clearly not. He’s falling far behind in class because of these disorders. On top of that, my son has delayed speech and cognitive skills. So what do you do for a child who can’t communicate properly?

    He doesn’t socialize with other children, he doesn’t play at the playground, he just walks around. I hope, hope, hope and pray pray pray, that this medication will be the answer. =) Keep fingers crossed for my little boy.

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