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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Protected kids become anxious adults

In an “Adulting 101” workshop, Kansas State students talk about "conflict" as though "it's this terrible thing," said Brett Mallon, an assistant professor, in an interview with Holly Korbey “Is it that they’re afraid of [conflict], or are they lacking in experience? Probably a little bit of both.”

"Old Enough," which shows very young Japanese children running their first errand, was a hit on Netflix this year and will air again in 2023.

A growing number of "universities are offering help to students struggling with the stresses of everyday life and mental health challenges like anxiety and depression," writes Korbey on MindShift. But why are so many young people so poorly prepared for young adulthood?

It starts in childhood. If children don't practice coping with "short cycles of stress or conflict," they don't develop resilience and independence, she writes. Psychologists connect that"to the growth of mental health problems and psychiatric disorders in young adults."

Seventeen-year-old Megan Miller, a senior at Hudson High School in Hudson, Ohio, recently drove her two siblings, ages 15 and 12, to Cedar Point Amusement Park for an evening of fun. Miller was nervous. She’d never driven an hour and a half away from home by herself before, especially in the dark — but she had to do it; it was homework for school.
. . . Other students figured out how to put air in their tires, cooked a meal for their family from start to finish and drove on the interstate. The point, Miller’s teacher Martin Bach said, was to give these young adults — many of whom would be living away from home in less than a year — experience with trying, failing and figuring something out on their own.

Covid "supercharged" students' stress and anxiety, Bach said. He got the idea for the “do something new on your own” assignment from Let Grow, a national nonprofit promoting greater childhood independence, writes Korbey.

Let Grow, founded by Leonore Skenazy of Free-Range Kids, "is part of a growing movement of psychologists, therapists and educators advocating for evidence-based practices to help kids gain more independence and improve mental health," she writes.

Clinical psychologist Camilo Ortiz, a professor at Long Island University-Post, is treating anxious children with independence exercises. “My approach is something like: So you’re afraid of the dark? Go to the deli and buy me some salami.”

The Resilience Builder Program, based in middle schools, encourages students to face challenges and think optimistically, says the program’s creator, Mary Alvord. “It’s about being proactive and not feeling like you’re a victim, how you can control some things, but you can’t control everything. How can you make the best of it, and if you can’t — how do you ask for help?”

Netflix will air another season of Old Enough, which shows Japanese pre-schoolers running errands -- on their own. "My first errand," a rite of passage in Japan, would be child endangerment in the U.S. When children reach the age of 10 or 11, 65 percent of U.S. parents -- 15 percent of Japanese parents -- chaperone them on walks.


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