What Happened to American Childhood?

Antidepressants And Opioid Epidemic

Pharmaceuticals are playing a major role in the deterioration of mental health among young people. There is a link between teen suicidal thinking and antidepressant use, along with a link being seen in actual suicides among the young and the use of opioids in their families.


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What Happened to American Childhood?

What Happened to American Childhood?


Key Ideas

A Child's Mental Health

Various studies conducted in the U.S. population indicate growing anxiety towards a possibly grim future. Political turmoil, gun violence, global plagues, changing power structure and a widening rich-poor divide make us believe in a future that is more stressful and complicated than the present.

Our children are the most vulnerable. Depression cases among the young are climbing since the 90s. Suicidal cases among 10 to 24-year-olds have risen 56 per cent from 2007 to 2017.

Antidepressants And Opioid Epidemic

Pharmaceuticals are playing a major role in the deterioration of mental health among young people. There is a link between teen suicidal thinking and antidepressant use, along with a link being seen in actual suicides among the young and the use of opioids in their families.

Smartphones and Social Media

Across age groups, social media is potentially hazardous, with its tendency to amplify the social divide.

There is a strong relationship between anxiety/depression and the use of smartphones, particularly social media usage among kids, though the data also seem to show the positive effects of staying connected with their peers. Online distractions also make youngsters give up their offline life, leading to isolation and further depression.

The Problem

.. according to many experts, starts with anxiety at early childhood. Various studies have seen a steep rise in anxiety at a young age, making it a topic of music, books and even memes. A bit of stress and anxiety is still ok if it is prevented from being turned into an anxiety disorder.

The Symptom: Dropping Out

Many growing children, facing a multitude of problems in school are avoiding school or have dropped out completely, refusing to go. This is an alarming trend as it risks profound distress and failure of a ‘launch pad’ towards life, leading to even more depression and anxiety.

The Crisis That Concerns All

The acute mental health problems of youngsters concern everyone, and even the ones taking care are themselves victims of extreme stress. This is leading to a vicious cycle of stress across all ages.

The Seeds Of Anxiety

Studies show that anxiety and phobias among children start at age four, and by age eleven, a child can have many anxiety and related disorders. Introverts tend to suffer a lot more, becoming deeply scarred with the hurdles and humiliations of life. This is due to a competitive environment, compounded by the rising cost of living and peer pressure to be successful.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy(CBT)

.. works as a treatment for anxiety, using ‘cognitive reconstructing’ in young adults(when they are motivated to cooperate), with a 60 per cent success rate, but the benefit isn’t long term if the treatment is stopped.


.. which is short for Supportive Parenting for Anxious Childhood Emotions, takes the indirect approach of treating the parents or caretakers, with the same success ratio.

The SPACE approach of treating parents does not blame the parents but at the same time, shows the correlation between the kid’s anxiety and parents behaviour. Their aim is to reduce parental supervision and let the children stem out on their own.

The Anxious Parent

Modern parenting is now being seen as hyper, overprotective and too vigilant, and yet the results are counterproductive, with more kids needing therapy. Certain parental impositions and lack of providing any space to move may be hampering the kid’s growth.

Another factor is the infectious(!) nature of anxiety, along with it being hereditary, at least partially. Treatment of the parents mental disorder(s), in many studies has shown an improvement in the child as well.

Bubble-wrapping your Child

A study showed that children put in day-care, being away from their parents, and interacting with kids their own age, opened up and were psychologically healthier than those who were always with their parents.

Not surprisingly, it is the parents’ adverse reactions and anxiety attacks in response to their children’s behaviour, which is compounding the problem. The ones who are able to endure their children’s discomfort, and not go hyper, become resilient and cope well in the long run.

Gender Trouble

Risk factor for anxiety disorders is far greater in females, of all ages. They also tend to cling to the mental disorder for a longer time. This is due to girls being over-protected from an early age and not developing any personal competencies.

Smartphones For Kids

  • Kids are getting smartphones and tablets at an early age due to the parents wanting to keep them occupied(games and Youtube Videos)and also wanting to track them all the time.

  • An increasing digital life fueled by technology is making kids refuse to go to school and even lead to a ‘failure to launch’, that is becoming dependent on their parents by not working.

  • Limiting the kid’s technology access actually makes them better at living their lives, as it gives their brain time to think and not be hooked to a TV/Phone/Video Game/Tablet.

Take Care Of You

A healthy life, with plenty of sleep, exercise, and social activity contributes to the psychological health of the parents as well as the kids.

With the therapy aimed at kids(like CBT) being out of reach of many and also being a temporary treatment, parents who have to create the right conditions to promote the children’s mental health, and more importantly, for their own sanity.



Taking cues from you

When children witness a parent in a state of anxiety, they can become unsettled, because they take information about how to interpret situations from the parent.

If you notice your child sho...

Learn stress management techniques

A big part of treatment for children with anxiety is to teach parents stress tolerance.

A mental health professional can help you work through methods of stress management for your specific needs.

Model stress tolerance

You might learn strategies in therapy that you can impart to your child when she is feeling anxious.

Try to maintain a calm, neutral demeanor in front of your child, even if you are still trying to manage your anxiety. Children are quick to read facial expressions.

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A growth mindset is a desirable thing to have... many people declare they have it:

  • If they are open minded and flexible, they said they have it
  • If they are kind to people, they said they have it 

But a&nb...

The growth mindset the belief that your abilities can be improved through effort. 

And this means you can get better and hard work pays off.

Tips for encouraging a growth mindset (in yourself and in others):
  • Don’t praise ability or intelligence: That promotes a fixed mindset. Compliment effort, process and choices.
  • Don’t ignore outcome, tie it to effort: You can be happy about success, but attribute it to effort.
  • Respond positively to failure: Failure isn’t bad, it’s a tool for improving.
  • Don’t just say “Try hard.” Set goals: Blind repetition doesn’t work. 
  • Practice a Growth mindset in all areas of life: There’s no area where they cannot improve with hard work.
  • Share your own Growth mindset efforts: Practice it yourself and share your results.
Self-isolation and parenting

Parenting while practicing self-isolation is not about doing everything a hundred percent all the time. It's about doing as much as you possibly can.

Something is better than nothing,...

It's really, really hard

It's hard to work from home and parent. Working from home full time during regular workday hours, care for your children, and sprinkle in a mix of homeschooling, is essentially asking parents to do multiple full-time jobs simultaneously.

  • Many parents relax screen time rules for now.
  • Get on a schedule if you find it helpful, or refuse to feel guilty for lack of a schedule.
  • Set up many FaceTime and Zoom dates with your friends and your kid's friends, and grandparents.
  • Understanding the situation of working-from-home-parents will go a long way by not holding their diminished productivity against them.
  • If you're a manager, there's no harm in announcing at the beginning of your conference call that it's OK if there are little voices from time to time.
Explaining the unsure future to children.
  • It is best to be honest when you have to talk about when a child will be going back to school or reschedule their birthday party when you don't know yourself.
  • You can say that some scientists think it would be a few months, but you don't really know yet. Then ask them how they feel about that and if they have questions. See what information you can find together.

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