Why is my child anxious?
An Anxious Parent’s Concern
Dear Anxious Parent,
Your child is not alone. Anxiety is a symptom of a widespread problem. Most parents think their children are affectionate, resilient, curious, and persistent. However, the truth is that both depression and anxiety have increased among children. A recent Pew survey found that “70 percent of teens say anxiety and depression is a ‘major problem’ among their peers.” According to the National Survey of Children’s Health, about 15% of adolescents experience depression, and 36% have persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness. Nearly 20% seriously consider attempting suicide, and almost 9% actually attempt suicide.
French philosopher, Jean-Paul Sartre said anxiety occurs where there is a sense of purposelessness. Your child’s sense of purpose comes from family. Family is where we form and maintain our commitments. Your child also gets her sense of purpose from other influences, such as friends, social media, and school.
The National Education Association’s response to this growing problem is called Social and Emotional Learning. They say SEL is helping children “develop important life skills, such as goal-setting, self-reliance, and conflict resolution.” Orienting your child’s social and emotional development sounds good, but is your child’s school making her more anxious?
Some argue that an emphasis on negative emotions like anxiety, fear, and sadness may be perpetuating a victim mentality. Others say SEL is an indoctrination tool—to teach your child a Marxist, oppressor vs. oppressed, vision of the world. Regardless of your feelings on racial inequality, gender identity, or sexual orientation, it appears SEL is a kind of secular character education. Students are not taught wisdom, patience, and courage; instead, they are taught open-mindedness and conformity to a secularized morality. SEL teaches students to choose their own subjective values, stripped of the values and commitments that produce purposeful living.
Are schools teaching your child that your values are not good for their psyche because they make them feel guilty? American Sociologist, Phillip Rieff, made the point that guilt is a good thing; it’s an internal pain that tells us we are violating some moral rules that we ought to be maintaining. The proponents of a secular character education reject moral rules and look down on parents who hold traditional values. C.S. Lewis said, “The proud look down on everyone, and therefore fail to look up to anything higher.” If we are taught that all guilt is bad, all communities are temporary, and all standards are arbitrary, then identities must be fluid, and moral commitments must be abandoned. This is why children are anxious. Liberating children to abandon moral commitments is not part of a good education; it creates a sense of purposelessness, and it’s an invitation to a kind of cultural death.
“The Lord will give you an anxious mind, eyes weary with longing, and a despairing heart. You will live in constant suspense, filled with dread both night and day, never sure of your life.” (Deut. 28:65-66 NIV)