A recent study has highlighted the global epidemic of anxiety and depression in young people. In children aged 5 to 17 years old, the prevalence of anxiety globally is 3.2%, and depression worldwide is 6.2%. In young adults aged 18 to 25, the prevalence of anxiety worldwide is up to 10.4%, and depression globally is 4.7%. Thus, in young people under the age of 25, anxiety and depression is a global epidemic.
Although the development of anxiety and depression is due to multiple factors, parents and society as a whole do have some responsibility for the epidemic of anxiety and depression that is burdening young people. All of us experience stress, and we find ways to cope with those stressors and move on with our lives. Generation X had to learn how to cope with life’s stressors on their own, as their Baby Boomer parents were unavailable and not present in the household due to either the pursuit of making more money or spending it. So previous generations of young people had to learn on their own, naturally, organically, how to cope with life’s difficulties. There was nobody around to cuddle them or to take care of the problem for them…they had to do for themselves.
Fast forward to the mid-2010’s, and a different family dynamic arises. As the birthrate has declined and couples are having less children, this makes the children more precious in society. Children are more precious, and therefore more attention is afforded them by their parents, who have reacted against their own parents’ unavailability and vowed that their own children would not be ignored.
So the declining birthrate and the vow of new parents to be available for their children has led to a swing in the opposite direction, known as helicopter parenting. As children become more precious and parents become more focused on their families, children in the 2000’s and 2010’s have not been able to learn how to cope with life’s difficulties and developmental milestones, as their parents have cuddled them and hover over them to the point that their children do not feel pain and do not suffer. And to add to this, society has also cuddled children, where children who have failing grades are promoted to the next grade level, and children are no longer accountable for their own actions, and not given the appropriate punishment for their offenses. And when our children do not make the cut for a sports team or a competitive job, then the parents insert themselves into the process, when it is not really their problem to solve…it is their children’s problem to solve on their own. Doing everything for your children is age-appropriate when they are toddlers…doing these same things when they are young adults is not age-appropriate.
So when it comes time for today’s young people to deal with the normal stress of daily life, they falter and become highly distressed as they have not learned or mastered the coping skills to deal with the problem and move on. As such, because many of today’s young people have not mastered coping skills, the stressors of normal life can be so distressing and overwhelming that it leads to anxiety and/or depression.
So as a parent or an adult member of society, when you are interacting with young people who are working through some life difficulty, think not of this as an unnecessary burden that can harm the young person…rather, think of this as a learning opportunity for the young person to develop some coping skills, naturally. So instead of doing for them, do with them (with as minimum guidance as possible). Young people have to learn how to get on with life after major difficulties. And they have to learn it mainly on their own, and sometimes they will have to feel some pain in order to learn from these unpleasant situations. Your children will thank you later when they master these necessary life skills and are able to solve their own problems.