In order to truly feel loved, it is essential that one feels accurately understood. Therefore, if our kids are worried about something, it’s important that we parents are reasonably aware of it—both for helping kids feel loved and understood; but also so that we can help provide assistance for anxiety and/or depression if this happens to be needed.
Recent data from an American Psychological Association survey on stress in America (Monitor on Psychology, January 2010) suggests that there is a large discrepancy between how worried parent believe that their kids are and how worried those kids actually say that they feel.
For example, three times as many kids say they get headaches (33%) compared with the thirteen percent of parents who realize their kids get them. Twenty percent of kids said that they worry a lot while only three percent of parents viewed their kids’ stress as highly elevated.
Down the line parents under-estimated and under-reported stress levels in their kids, including the thirty percent who were worried about their families’ financial situation (compared to about half that level of parent awareness of this concern); meanwhile over forty percent of kids eight through seventeen-years-old were significantly worried about grades, school pressures and homework—the highest self-reported kid stressor (and close to ten percent of parents even missed this one).
Similarly, while nearly thirty percent of thirteen to seventeen-year-olds report serious worry about getting into college, or what the future will bring after high school, only five percent of these kids’ parents realized this was weighing them down.
Conversely, parents over-estimated stress on three categories: kids’ relationships with their siblings, getting along with peers and peer-pressure to do drugs or other risky behaviors. This might suggest that these things stress parents more than they do kids. Another factor in all of this, however, is that this is reported stress and it seems highly probable that some kids chose to conceal stress when asked, perhaps denying it as inconsistent with the self-concept they wished to cultivate or project to others. To me it seems unlikely that kids would exaggerate their stress levels, which, all in all suggests that kids are rather stressed these days, particularly about school, money and their futures.
While I sense that readers of this blog are likely to be the parents who do get it, these numbers personally surprised me as a psychologist, leaving me feeling that I better check in again with my kids—who I know get headaches, feel stressed by school, etc… but what might I be missing?
As for things to consider in deepening how we think about anxiety and/or ways to help manage it see previous posts on anxiety.
So, let’s dedicate today to having eyes and hearts open to noticing and empathizing with the worries that burden the kids in our homes, and those of all our collective children.