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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Fear not

Every night when I put my daughter to bed, I would say, "There are no wolves or bears in Palo Alto. They live a long way away." How old was she when I stopped doing that? I don't remember.

Teaching your child that the world is a dangerous place will not make them safer, writes Arthur Brooks in The Atlantic. It will make them fearful, sad, lonely and intolerant.

American parents have become worriers, he writes. According to a 2015 Pew report, the average parent said "children should be at least 10 years old to play unsupervised in their own front yard, 12 years old to stay home alone for an hour, and 14 to be unsupervised at a public park."

Insane. I was born at the peak of the Baby Boom, when parents had too many children to hover over them. At five, I was walking to kindergarten with all the other kids, but no adults. My sister and I had a secret route through our neighbors' back yards to get to the park, where we played without adult supervision. Mothers were always home with younger kids. I became a babysitter at 13 when my surprise brother was born.

Schools tend to accentuate the negative, Brooks writes. "Almost every day that my daughter was in high school, she was taught about the dangerous world — about bad people, dangerous forces in nature, and a bleak future for our country." He and his wife tried to counteract the "gloom and doom" by talking about "ways that the world was safer and more prosperous today than in the past."

Fairy tales can be empowerment stories. Gretel takes action to save her brother from the Witch. Jack defeats the Giant. The Pig Brothers stand up to the Wolf. Cinderella, Rapunzel, Snow White are what the Brits call "give-it-a-go" gals.

In Hurts So Good on Common Sense, Suzy Weiss writes about teenage girls and young women with chronic illnesses "who track their many pains, tests, diagnoses, and doctors visits online." Many have hard-to-diagnose ailments with symptoms that come and go.

Morgan Cooper, who suffered from chronic stomach pain and was dangerously thin, created a YouTube channel.

“I had one video just called ‘I’m Sick’ and the thumbnail was me crying,” she told (Weiss). “On Instagram, whenever I would post a picture of me looking sad, or with pills in my hand, or in a wheelchair, it would get like 2,000 likes.” Pictures of Cooper smiling would get about 100.
. . . Cooper’s account had 3,000 followers at its peak. She remembered looking at images from a more popular account with over 10,000 followers. “I was jealous of her,” she told me. “She looked so sick.”

Cooper started getting better when her mother took away her phone, cutting her off from social media. After time at an eating disorders clinic, she became healthy enough to have surgery that relieved most of her pain. “I could pursue more diagnoses, but at a certain point, what will that do?” she said. “I just don’t identify as a sick person anymore.”

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