Sympathetic to A Sympathetic Bubby
(Chronicles June 8 )
I just finished reading your response to the worried bubby and was very disappointed with your answer. This bubby is right on. We are seeing an alarming increase in childhood anxiety. We also have kids being diagnosed with ADHD and all kinds of learning disabilities. Medication is given out like candy, without any thought of the immediate side effects and long-term effects it can have.
Today, in addition to the tremendous financial demands of sending a child (or numerous children) to yeshiva, most families are spending money on tutors and therapists as well. And yet with all of this, we are at a loss as to why our kids are having so many behavioral issues (kids off the derech, mood disorders, bullying, OCD, etc.).
It’s time to take our heads out of the sand. Our children are being deprived of normal childhood activities because of the demands of the yeshiva system. Our children should be coming home from school and taking their bikes out for a ride or playing ball, but there’s almost no time for anything, not even sleep.
We all grew up in a different era where the demands were not as great. Kids at risk or many of the issues we are seeing today, such as bullying, etc., were almost unheard of. We are making unrealistic demands of young children, and much of the time they aren’t given a constructive outlet for their stress. These demands transmit to the parents as well; we are unable to have positive communication with our children, since we are frantically trying to help them complete all their homework instead of spending quality time with them after their long day at school.
Recently a friend told me that half of her son’s high school class – he is now in college – was on medication. We are asking our kids to sit for 10-hour days with almost no movement, and then to come home for hours more of studying and homework. That’s a ridiculous expectation. Where do they turn? Social media, computers and phones are being used as a means of distraction from the day-to-day pressures.
In some cases, kids are displaying real at-risk behaviors in trying to cope with the pressures that face them. My girls are having bekius tests as early as third grade. This is stressing kids out and for what? They don’t need to be rebbetzins; they need to develop into happy, well-adjusted adults. There are girls in my daughter’s class who are exhibiting real behavioral issues, such as bullying, and are displaying a real lack of middos.
Why is our focus so off? We need to make school fun and give our children constructive positive ways to enjoy themselves minus the Internet, cell phones and TV. We would not need an asifa to fix the problem if we start using some basic common sense. I’ve spent a lot of time in the Midwest because some of my kids compete on a professional level in certain sports. I have been so impressed with these non-Jewish kids. They have tremendous focus, discipline and respect. They are seriously involved in wholesome sports that they love. I speak to their coaches and I see that they have almost no drug issues and very little behavioral issues. They have found a way to give their kids positive outlets for their energy and stress.
Why can’t we learn from them? If we are able to reduce the demands made on our kids and make more time to communicate with them positively, teaching them basic derech eretz, kavod habriosand positive forms of enjoyment, we will see happy well-adjusted adults who will not have to resort to deviant distorted behaviors to find themselves.
We can do better!
Dear Can Do,
Your points are well taken, however your letter addresses multiple issues that are not necessarily linked. For instance, can we really pin the blame for children’s learning disabilities on the burden of homework overload? Does a demanding itinerary inevitably result in a sedentary lifestyle? Do kids act out in unhealthy ways because of a lack of physical recreation that some of our schools fail to provide for their student body?