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Prioritizing Free Unstructured Play May Reduce Teenage Anxiety and Depression

Friday, October 7, 2016 16:24
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October 8th, 2016

By Tracy Gillett

Guest writer for Wake Up World

I remember the car ride home when my parents found out my brother skipped school for the first time. We turned the corner and crossed the train tracks as they calmly told him not to do it again.

They weren’t mad. There was no punishment. I couldn’t believe it.

I was a model student. I went to school, got good grades and didn’t cause any trouble. I thought my brother’s behaviour was wrong; he needed to be reprimanded or he’d do it again. Surely my parents needed to exert their control.

But looking back through the lens of a new parent trying to make sense of our modern world for our young son, I understand and surprisingly even applaud my brother’s behaviour. He was trying to take control of his life. It was HIS life after all. Didn’t he have the right to decide how he spent at least some of his time?

Didn’t he have the right to do what made him happy?

With the incidence of teenage mental and emotional health issues skyrocketing in most western nations, we need to ask ourselves why. Why are so many of our children unhappy? Some say the issue lies with the fact that medicine has improved and we’re now able to more accurately diagnose psychological conditions. Perhaps teenagers have always been anxious and depressed but we just didn’t recognize it before.


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