Issue 75 • Week of June 25, 2023
Modern US families often plan out extracurricular activities every day in order to maximize chances for scholarships to top tier universities where the rules just changed. The prospects of another unstructured summer will soon cause more anxiety for American parents who already spend an average of 37 hours per week worrying about their children and are going broke trying to afford child care, even if the alternative seems economically unviable.
Last week, Surmountable delved into how the privatization of youth sports compels parents to spend thousands of dollars so their kids can compete in organized leagues. Their hearts are in the right place. Nearly half of parents aspire to have a better relationship with their children and be more vocal about love than they experienced growing up, and that should be celebrated.
However, perfectionism can lead to too much of a good thing. Almost 3/4 of parents now provide more than occasional help with homework that creates a crutch that students hesitate to give up. Millions of children are also no longer getting enough freedom to play or explore on their own, especially when combined with trends in social media and excessive screen-time.
Mothers and fathers are spending twice as much time with kids as they did 50 years ago, so now psychologists are starting to see the consequences of overparenting (aka helicopter parenting). Youth mental health issues such as anxiety and ADHD practically doubled in a mere six years from 2012-2018. Then, the pandemic decreased interactions with peers further that led to much more unhappiness and depression than usual for a third of students.
Everyone needs to bond with friends, develop decision-making skills, and learn resiliency to thrive as an adult. Responsibilities previously bestowed as early as age 5 are now being withheld until as late as age 16. Suddenly granting limited independence to adolescents out of the blue does not equip teenagers for success later in life.
Autonomy is something earned year after year and we must redouble our efforts to inspire these attributes after recent restrictions in social gatherings – especially in states where allowing kids to roam free is illegal. Children need to learn a sense of responsibility rather than anxiety so they can face challenges of tomorrow.
How can we empower kids without recklessly endangering them and unnerving parents?
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