Remember living by the clock… anxiously awaiting the next episode of your favorite show? I remember making plans, gathering at someones house to watch “Friends”, huddling around the television – not the flat screen version but the large bulky box version – counting down the minutes to showtime. Those weekly viewing parties brought us together, allowing us to connect and share our lives with one another. We would get lost in the moment, enjoying friendship and togetherness. For those highly anticipated 30 minutes we escaped from reality and the stresses of daily life!
Long past are the days when we looked forward to Saturday morning cartoons. I remember waking up early as a child and staying in our pj’s all morning to watch Tom & Jerry and Daffy Duck! We were not rushing off to the next ball game or sporting event. We had time to decompress, to unwind, and to rest. Now our kids have instant access and that has created the need to be in constant motion. They can immediately watch any show they choose with no commercial interruptions. We have televisions in every room; bedrooms, media rooms, back porches, cars… They have the ability to text or Snap friends anytime in any place. Amazon Prime delivers in 2 days or less, your groceries can be delivered to your door in an hour, and doctors can be seen via the computer!!
This new found age of instant access has transformed into the age of INSTANT ANXIETY! Children are suffering from this evolving form of childhood anxiety at staggering rates. Studies, in fact find that childhood anxiety has increased so much that typical school aged children are reporting more anxiety than child psychiatric patients did in the 1950’s (APA, Dec 2000).
I WANT IT NOW!!
Instant and on demand means prompt, sudden and rapid. Think about it, we have Instapots, Instagram, AT&T NOW, instant gratification; we have come to expect everything “on demand.” With this shift in societal norms, we are wading through the age of instantly meeting every need, and we are missing the opportunity to teach our children many valuable lessons. The younger generations are not patient and respectful. Our kids are losing their innocence at a much younger age and lacking compassion for others.
This is an honest to goodness real problem!
Think about how we learned patience. It was learned at a very early age. We waited for our turn in line, waited for our turn at a game. Now there is a fast pass and a game on every phone, tablet and TV. We were taught to respect the art of conversation as we waited our turn to speak. Now we text, Snap and post (and expect a response immediately). There are great learning opportunities missed as our society no longer has to wait, the euphoric feeling of the highly anticipating future is disappearing. Patience is a lost art, and one that my kids struggle with.
If you have ever sat and tried to have a conversation with a teenager recently, then you know that they no longer understand the common etiquette of conversation. Texting and snapping allows them to type their next words before the other person has even spoken. This leads to conversations that never take place, respectful communication never being learned and the lost art of listening. My own kids lack the ability to be able to hold a conversation on the phone, or enjoy sitting and speaking face to face, while looking one another in the eyes over a short respite. They lack the ability to wait patiently, communicate effectively and listen intently, which leads to an overwhelming sense of anxiety. Our society needs these skills to live harmoniously with respect and compassion for others. Our children are not equipped to deal with even the daily stress now of a common conversation. They are living in a constant state of stress and excessive pressures, and suffering with anxiety disorders.
Where did we go wrong?
We all want what is best for our kids. We want their lives to be easier than ours, and for them to never do without. But wait, isn’t that how we learned? Isn’t that how we were shaped into the people we are today? We had to go outside and play, were forced to communicate, forced to help others. We were taught that hard work paid off, good things were worth working for and better appreciated the rewards in life. Now, we work hard, give them everything – including things they don’t even need – and they are never without. They are missing these milestones, as a child. Many life lessons are learned from the anticipated excitement of the next episode of a favorite show, or meeting up with friends to play after school, the exhilarating excitement of a letter in the mail or a phone call from a far away relative or friend. All these events shaped and molded us into diligent hard workers, patient care givers, and compassionate friends and neighbors.
This generation does not know the pain of not being able to watch the same show on repeat, or the sound of the VHS tape rewinding. This is a new brand of anxiety that is an epidemic of “social” proportions. This generation falls apart and runs when they don’t instantly get their way. They crumble when they feel they have been wronged by the very people that have sacrificed everything for their instant demands. Society has taught them a sense of entitlement based on this instant access to the world.
They have swimming pools they don’t swim in, bikes they don’t ride, more clothes and toys than we can count, yet they find themselves empty, lonely, and sad. They are unfulfilled and lacking self-worth and confidence. These are all common symptoms of childhood anxiety.
Social media takes it a step further by providing instant access. It takes the stress of growing up to another level and amplifies childhood anxiety. Social media presents the ability and need to constantly compare and compete. The social profiles show someone’s “best life” not necessarily their “real life.” It is a social construct that is dangerous, and creates feelings of inadequacy, diminished self-confidence and lack of self-fulfillment. It instills the ideology that we should all reach these elevated and often false levels of success. It creates a self-fulfilling prophecy of MORE, FASTER, BETTER!
I’m sure you have all heard the adage, “Keeping up with the Jones.” Well the truth is, The Jones are unhappy, their life looks amazing from the outside, but take off the filter, and they are just like everyone else. Trouble paying the bills, jobs they don’t like, relationships that feel empty, kids that are ungrateful and aging bodies that are tired. Our kids have grown up in this newfangled era, with instant access to EVERYTHING! We find that the people not keeping up with the Jones’ are quickly shunned, outcast, made fun of, and bullied. They are different because they have not subjected themselves to the flawed ideology of “Bigger is Better.” Our kids have suffered this anxiety since before they could remember; they don’t know life without instant access, Instant Anxiety.
Most of us grew up with the “Less is More” philosophy, which instilled the morals of patience, compassion, respect, and thoughtful communication.
With instant access, our young children are exposed to the sad world we live in. The news is not a happy place!! I remember the nightly news…a little happy, a little sad, but never longer than it should be. It gave me a healthy insight to the world and all of its flaws. The reality that everything is not always the way it looks, but it was limited, and short. It didn’t give me more information than I needed, and was easily ignored.
How in the world do we ignore the news now? How do our kids escape from it? Now it is blares across our phones, streams across our televisions, screams from signs on the freeway. There is no escape. Our kids are forced to know about things in life well before their brain can actually process the concept. We have almost become immune to Amber Alerts, as they are often a daily occurrence.
Our toddlers don’t even hear the obnoxious noise any longer; they just go about their day. What they do see is that your attention was shifted off of them and onto the phone again. Fundamentally, they are learning about the world, well before their brains are ready. They find themselves becoming anxious and concerned about the world around them, as often they are taking these social cues from us. When we have instant access, even our young children have instant access, they suffer due to the effect that instant access has on us. It creates stress, worry and fear, often triggering anxiety for our youth.
We now have 6-10 year old children obsessively concerned with being abducted, or lost. Getting sucked into the politics of this world, and social issues they cannot understand. There are kids that hear on the television about sex trafficking… hello, they don’t even know what sex is yet!! They hear about drugs, vaping, and tragic car accidents. I don’t, by any stretch, think our kids should live in a bubble, but instead, shouldn’t this information trickle in slowly, at developmentally appropriate times? All this instant access to the world creates urgency, and a nervous energy that we must move faster, know more, and never gives way to rest.
DO NOT DISTURB
A body and mind at rest is creative, playful, innocent, carefree and joyous. These are priceless commodities that we must not lose sight of. As parents, we must teach our children to respect rest, and not constantly need to be entertained or instantly fulfilled. Our anxious kids are losing their joy, losing their innocence and losing sight of the fundamental principles that childhood is built on, lending to increased levels of childhood anxiety.
The PlayStation and other video gaming systems have redefined the word “play”. Play is engaging in an activity for enjoyment without a serious or practical purpose. I would go a step further in saying often old fashion play incorporated interaction with others. Now our kids do not interact with others while they play. They do not know the feeling of defeat or competition in a healthy sense. They can just restart the game, and repeat it, until they get the outcome they want. Bring back the innocent, old fashion element of play. Even big kids and grown-ups need time to relax and unplug. It is an essential part of parenting, we must take a step back and teach our kids (and ourselves) to pause the anxiety and chaos, and live at times on DO NOT DISTURB.
Clear the clutter, and simplify! Allow healthy limitations, and help create habits for our kids that teach them to rest. Create opportunities for healthy conversations, respectful communication, and moments of being unplugged. Don’t fall into society’s trap of “Bigger is Better,” and “Instant Everything.”
I challenge each of you to get back to the basics, find at least one day a week to live the “Less is More” parable. Put life on DO NOT DISTURB. Have a conversation with your children, and your spouse about this topic, and turn back the hands of time.
- Take a 24 hours Social Media Break – It may be painful at first, but this provides you the opportunity to show your kids the joys of rest, the freedom of un-pressured living. Remember it is 24 hours for you to be social media free also, set the example.
- Spend a day outside playing with your kid – Play catch, swim, plant flowers, do a project. Teach them to build something, work out together, read a book outside, go fishing! The possibilities are endless.
- Enjoy reading a book with your kids – Have you ever read a book as a family? There are lots of great books, and it can be fun to take an hour and read a book together, reflecting on it, and share how each family member takes away a different message.
- Incorporate a movie night – You can schedule a night out at the theater, or ever a night in, but schedule a time to huddle around the same screen. Teach them to enjoy family time as much, if not more than they enjoy time with friends.
- Plan a game night – This is one of my kid’s favorite things to do. It is a screen free, time to laugh, play, and enjoy being us. It can be a short game, or a really long one, but, take the time to enjoy unplugged time, with your children.
- Cook dinner together – Have you ever given your kids the power to choose and plan dinner? My kids love planning their favorite meal, then learning to cook it. They actually enjoy it so much, that we have even hosted a family version of cooking competitions. Added bonus, moms, you don’t have to cook, and you get to spend quality time with your kids!
- Take a walk – This can be scheduled or on the spur of the moment, but provides rest, a little exercise and ample opportunities for open conversation with our kids. I know that talking to someone about your day, frustrations or struggles is therapeutic, and can provide needed stress relief.
- Worship together – Taking time to come together, rest, worship and find comfort in faith, brings joy, and a sense of calm.
“When anxiety overwhelms me, your comfort brings me joy.” Psalm 94:19
Recognizing that life is different than it once was allows us to focus on important, and sometimes untaught, life lessons. Our job as parents is to nurture and teach our kids to one day become independent, responsible, compassionate and happy adults. We have 18 years to teach them all about life and how to cope with it. If we do not take the time to teach our kids the life skills and character traits needed to be a productive part of society, than we have missed out on the whole concept of parenting. They are only ours for a short while, be the parent that teaches our kids that we don’t want them to grow up in an Instant! Remember that instant living creates childhood anxiety. Do not miss the teachable moments that will mold your kids. We want them to grow up loved, confident, rested, and joyful. Their mental health is important, and we want them to live a life free of worry, free of depression and focused on finding joy in the simple things in life.
Teach your children to live freely, love deeply, and listen intently!
Which Instant Challenge will you accept today?
*This information is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, it is provided for entertainment and educational purposes only. Depression is a disorder often linked with Anxiety Disorder. Please seek a licensed medical professional for proper diagnosis and treatment.
About the author: Tanya Goytia is a mother, wife, sister and friend. She is active in her children’s lives, a sports mom and a graduate of Texas A&M University. Her degree is in sociology and her masters work is in developmental psychology, holistic health and elementary education. She is a regularly contributing author to ADayinMotherhood.com.