The NYT Magazine feature, The Kids Who Can’t, intrigued me enough to read the whole article, something that I rarely do, these days. Basically, the article discussed the phenomenon of increased teen-age anxiety, presented a few possible causes and what might be done to correct the problem.
Anxiety is a reaction experienced by everyone at sometime or other. It can be a good thing as it heightens our awareness to real or perceived danger. This article presents anxiety as a problem for teen-agers who “can’t.”
These young people internally set standards for themselves that they believe they can’t achieve, so they do nothing. In fact they actually retreat into what they consider “safe” places, often their rooms or social media.
Parents and teachers, in an attempt to “understand” the young person, often do more harm than good. Parents allow the child to stay home from school. In many schools today, a student who feels over-whelmed may leave the classroom to seek a safe place. These well meaning actions of parents and teachers make the problem worse. These actions keep the youth from facing the anxiety producing issue. Anxiety at this level is debilitating.
There are residential programs like Mountain Valley, very expensive but often successful. Mountain Valley offers a variety of therapies from group and individual counseling, prescribed drugs and, most importantly, opportunities for their clients to face and overcome their anxieties under supervision.
According to this article, there are two major causes for this increase in teen-age anxiety: one is that anxious children come from anxious parents, the other is the influence of social media. These young people have made their reason for living the recognition of their peers.
Sadly, nowhere in the article did any parent, teacher or therapist remind the anxiety sufferer that he/she is a child of a loving God. In today’s society that is not unusual or unexpected. The fastest growing church in the US is the unchurched. Nevertheless, letting a child know that no matter how difficult a problem seems, no matter how hard you try to solve it or run from it, someone cares about you in times of success, and in times of failure. The above may sound simplistic. It may be simplistic. It has been around for thousands of years. It is time for families to unearth this reality and make it work for them.
Another thing that will work, take that damn phone away from your over anxious child!!