I feel concerned over the lack of attention worry receives. According to the National Association of Health Education Centers, "Between 5 and 10 children in every 100 children have anxiety problems and stress among children is estimated to have increased 45 percent over the past 30 years."
Do the math. How many children do you have in your church, your ministry, your mentoring program, or your neighborhood? Or what about your children? Anyone who works with children has likely seen how worry works to weigh a child down. Yet this growing issue receives shockingly little coverage.
Let's change that—and look for a solution at the same time.
Reality check: Life brings challenges. Some are big and important. Others, though, deserve little fuss—or none at all. Often, the ability to enjoy life requires differentiation between the two, including the ability to avoid letting problems stay past their welcome. When children learn to identify and defuse non-serious issues, they are on course to walk a healthy path through life. Unfortunately, walking that path can feel more like tiptoeing through a minefield for children whose parents fail to teach them to forget unimportant stuff. Years of interaction with large numbers of kids has shown me that scared and anxious children are raised by scared and anxious parents.
The fact is, though, that much of the paranoia in the air is as unnecessary as it is heartbreaking. And ridiculous. A recent "Dear Abby" column endorsed a reader's suggestion that parents use a cell phone to take a photo of their child every day before he leaves the house. The reason? To provide authorities with the most current picture available, including clothing, in case that child is abducted. This means that every day, a youngster will pose for a five-megapixel reminder of the incredible threats that wait just outside the front door. How many seeds of worry can a parent plant in a child's mind before constant worry becomes the norm?
Certainly, the very idea of abduction makes our stomachs turn. But we must keep in mind that our society has sensationalized abduction crimes to a deceptive degree.
Statistics show the chances that a stranger will abduct and kill a child stand as low as 1 in 1.5 million. At the same time, the insurance industry estimates the odds of your home completely burning down are 1 in 16,000, and the likelihood of having your automobile totaled are 1 in 100. The chances that a beloved pet's life will end sooner than expected are so high that tears might force you to stop reading—so let's skip it. Maybe your child should snap pics of your house, your car, and Sparky the dog before leaving for school—after all, greater odds exist that they'll disappear before he will.
Notice how our country's free enterprise system has locked onto the scent of this parental paranoia. Want your kids to feel petrified when it comes to outdoor adventures? Just tuck this new product under your arm as you head out for the day: a portable, wireless security system with sensors to place around your campsite, beach blankets, or picnic area. Anything that breaches this secure zone, from a wandering child to a hungry grizzly bear, causes alarms to sound and lights to flash. "The real value of the product is in child security," the inventor says. "You can easily create a perimeter at the playground, or the lake, or your campsite."
When parents are encouraged to take when-you're-abducted pictures and to guard the perimeter, it's little wonder kids fear the world in which they live. And it's a short step from there to developing hypersensitivity to anything in life that's unexpected. So much fuel exists to ignite anxiety, panic, and other disorders that kids begin feeling constantly anxious and panicky—and bear-hug any little problem so tightly they're unable to let go and move on.