Boys and girls are sleeping one to two hours less per night than their brains need for healthy growth. This lack of sleep is an underreported epidemic with profound consequences, including antisocial behavior, substance abuse, and school failure.
In the last twenty years, our children's physical weight rates have risen to nearly one in two children overweight and one in five obese. Obesity is the number one health problem among American children and is tied to many other problems: alcohol abuse, drugs, self-cutting, depression, media addiction, and listlessness. Dr. Philip Thomas, a pediatric obesity specialist, fears "This is going to be the first generation that's going to have a lower life expectancy than its parents."
In total, even after accounting for overlap in a number of these statistics, about one-third of our children are now diagnosed with some significant mental or physical disorder.
Present-day children's health statistics must give us pause. And we need to listen to the voices of parents. Between scientists studying children's health and parents trying to protect it, we have some of the smartest people around. When notes of discomfort in children's lives are reported from all quarters, we need to listen--one family at a time--so that we can best protect our children. Regardless of the age of your child, his or her chances of experiencing chronic stress are increasing constantly. Where is this stress coming from? What is a first step in protecting our children from it?
The first step is to become aware--not only of the chronic stress it¬self but also of its source. Aside from the obvious stressors like abuse or neglect, there are very powerful forces of social conditioning that we must confront in order to become revolutionary on our children's behalf.
The Social Trends Parenting System
A grandmother in Texas wrote, "The ten-year-old son of one of my fellow volunteers at church is whisked from home to school, then school to basketball practice, then to a snack at a Taco Bell drive-through, then our 90-minute church program. This doesn't include homework and tutoring. What this kid needs is time to chill out in the backyard. Just because all these school and other programs exist, doesn't mean the family needs to sign up for all of them!"
Another mother wrote, "When my children were young (they are now in college), I realized they were overstressed. So we decided to make a big transition as a family. We saw that for years we had pushed them into a lot of activities we thought would help them in future society, but the kids didn't seem to enjoy them as much as we did. We decided to give them support for a few activities they wanted to engage in, and we supported them when they decided not to participate in an activity that became too demanding on their schedule."
These moms, and many other parents I hear from, are wise. Parents, other family members, and professionals are "taking back" their kids--removing them from a social trends parenting system that has subtly told these parents they are bad if their kids are not stressed. These parents recognize that our society has developed an unnatural and artificial approach to the needs of the child.
Social Trends Parenting