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Mental health crisis in children, what is happening?

Lack of independence is behind the mental health crisis in children.

Rising rates of depression and anxiety in young people.

  • In recent decades, several countries have recorded an increase in rates of anxiety, depression and suicide among young people.
  • In the United States, the situation is so serious that there was a request to declare a national state of emergency in children’s mental health.

Gradual reduction in the level of independence of young people

  • Peter Gray, an American psychologist, argues that the increase in mental disorders in children is directly related to the gradual reduction in the level of independence of young people over the last 50 years.
  • Independent activities promote mental well-being and development of resilience in children.

Reduced opportunities to play and engage in independent activities

  • Reducing opportunities for children to play and engage in independent activities is one of the main causes of the increase in mental disorders.
  • Research shows a gradual decline in both the autonomy offered to young people and their mental health.

Changes in parental behavior over time

  • Children began to receive increasingly more supervision and protection, losing the freedom to engage in activities that involve risk and personal responsibility.
  • These changes in parental behavior affect children’s autonomy and development.

The impact on children’s mental health

  • Lack of independence has a direct impact on rates of anxiety, depression and other mental disorders in children and adolescents.
  • Depriving children of independent activities also means immediate privacy of happiness, satisfaction and development of important character traits.

Importance of independence in childhood

  • Independent activities promote skills such as problem solving, internal control, and courage.
  • Playing is one of the main sources of happiness for young children.

Recommendations for fathers and mothers

  • It is important to provide children with opportunities to carry out independent activities without interference from adults.
  • Parents can help their children be more independent by allowing them to face challenges and solve problems on their own.

Change in the freedom offered to children

Over the past 50 to 70 years, there has been a steady decline in the freedom offered to children, especially to play, explore and carry out activities independently. This occurred for several reasons, such as the increase in time spent at school and parents’ exaggerated fear of letting children go out alone.

The decline in children’s freedom

  • The popularization of television in the 1950s led many children to remain indoors and isolated from their peers.
  • The development of adult-directed children’s sports has led to children participating in adult-controlled activities rather than inventing their own games.
  • Children are following rules and decisions made by adults instead of learning to make their own decisions and solve problems on their own.
  • Parents’ exaggerated fear of letting children go out alone increased after rare cases of kidnapping and murder gained attention in the United States.
  • This fear led to parents’ acceptance of allowing children to go out alone, resulting in a dramatic change in parenting style.

Fear of legal consequences

  • Cases of parents losing custody of their children after letting them go out alone have increased, especially in the United States.
  • When someone calls the police when they see a child on the street without an adult nearby, the police are obliged to investigate and child protection services are also called.
  • In some cases, child protective services threaten to take children away from their parents.
  • White middle-class parents are more likely to challenge this decision in court and win, while poor parents and racial minorities are at real risk of losing custody of their children.

Reasonable independence laws

  • The organization Let Grow is working to create laws that give parents the power to decide on the safety of their children’s independent activities.
  • Except for obviously dangerous activities, it is up to parents and not the state to determine what is and is not safe for their children.
  • The goal is to restore parental confidence to allow children to have more freedom and independence.

Decline in work opportunities and autonomy

  • In the past, children often delivered newspapers, babysat neighbors’ younger children, or mowed lawns in exchange for payment.
  • Nowadays, many people share these safe activities for children.
  • There has been a dramatic increase in rates of use of counseling services among college students.
  • Parents are increasingly involved in their children’s academic lives, including trying to influence teachers’ decisions.
  • Children are less accustomed to solving problems on their own and expect step-by-step guidance.

Excessive parental involvement in homework

  • Schools in the United States required parents to sign homework to show that they were aware of the school work given to their children.
  • With the internet and social networks, parents began to constantly communicate with teachers.
  • Parents helped their children with their homework and defended their interests before teachers.
  • This has resulted in increased parental control over school work and children’s dependence on their parents.

Addiction of Young Adults

Dependence on parents is reflected even among young adults in the workplace. Some parents want to be present

The importance of children’s independence

The  importance of promoting children’s independence from an early age and from what age parents should start giving their children more autonomy.

At what age should parents start giving their children independence?

  • At two years of age, children already show a desire to do various things on their own.
  • It is important to allow them to perform simple tasks on their own at this stage.
  • From the age of four, this need for independence intensifies.

Examples of autonomy in childhood

  • At the age of four, the interviewee learned to cross the street alone and buy something at the market.
  • When he was a child, it was common for children to have more freedom to explore and carry out independent activities.
  • Currently, in the United States, sending a ten-year-old alone can raise concerns and even call the police.

Graduality in the development of independence

  • Gradually increasing independence allows people to gain the skills and confidence to face challenges without falling apart.
  • There is no specific age at which a person becomes completely independent. It is a gradual process over time.

Lack of attention to the decrease in children’s autonomy

  • The decline in autonomy given to children is not widely considered to be a cause of mental health crises.
  • The change has been gradual over time, which means that people do not realize the magnitude of the transformations.
  • The changes occurred due to good interests, such as concern for children’s safety.

Influence of social networks

  • There is no convincing evidence that the rise in anxiety and depression among young people is a result of social media use.
  • Although there are problems related to excessive use of social media, there are also benefits associated with it.
  • The increase in anxiety and depression preceded the popularization of the internet and social media.

Promoting independence in children

  • Parents should examine their priorities and understand that their children gradually need more independence.
  • It’s important to find ways for children to come together without constant interference from adults.
  • One suggestion is to arrange with other parents to send all the children to play together at a certain time after school.

Monitoring and Intervention in Serious Cases

American psychologist Peter Gray discusses the teacher’s role as monitor and the importance of intervening only in serious cases.

Monitoring and Intervention

  • A teacher monitors, but is instructed to only intervene in really serious cases.
  • The goal is not to separate smaller brigades or worry about damage levels.
  • It is also not there to deal with complaints between children, as the aim is to allow them to learn to solve their own problems.

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