Childhood in an Anxious Age
In May, Kate Julian wrote about why so many kids are so miserable—and what adults can do about it.
Your article was clear, informative, and insightful. But one thing I believe you missed was the demographic-evolutionary account: We now live in a society in which parents’ eggs are—literally and figuratively—all in one small basket. If you have four kids, not only do you have less time to obsess about each, but you carry “reproductive insurance.” But with only one, or even two, the risk of failing to pass on your genes to future generations (likely processed in the unconscious rather than the conscious brain) is increased. So what do you do? You become highly protective!
Robert M. and Natalie Reid Dorn Professor, UC Davis
As the president of a small, rural, private liberal-arts college for eight years, I witnessed a threefold increase in the number of students accessing mental-health services during that time. Many students could not effectively cope with independence and individual responsibility when left to themselves.
While exploring the cause of the rise of student mental-health disorders, I learned that too many parents remained electronically and psychologically tethered to their children. Kate Julian’s reporting in the May 2020 issue should be required reading.
Richard H. Dorman, D.Ed.
In both my work as an educator and my role as a parent of three small children, I have witnessed the contagious anxiety that Kate Julian describes. To her point that anxiety travels in families, I would add that it travels in communities. At playgrounds, my wife and I have been repeatedly admonished by other parents for letting our 3- and 4-year-old girls wander to the other side of the playground and climb or slide by themselves. At times, other parents have taken it upon themselves to hover in our place, because, they said, they “didn’t know where the parents were.” I wonder how many of those hovering parents were acting so protectively by choice and how many were doing it because of social pressure. It’s great that people want to look out for children’s safety in their community, but they should also respect parents’ decisions to have a seat on the park bench and let their kids learn how to climb—and maybe fall—on their own.
One of the great secrets of child psychologists is that most of our work takes place with grown-ups. Kate Julian did a masterful job of walking the line between blaming parents and ignoring them. I hope this is not the end of the story, but rather a jumping-off point for further discussion.
T. David Elkin, Ph.D.
Exile in the Age of Modi
Aatish Taseer wrote about how Hindu nationalism has trampled the founding idea of his country (May).
What an extraordinarily forceful and perceptive piece Mr. Taseer has written. My own family members were Baghdadi Sephardim who landed in Bombay in the mid-19th century, as the British were developing the city into the subcontinent’s western export hub (we built the city’s first deepwater dock, which is still in daily use). They then rode a spectacular Indian-cotton bubble created by the Union naval blockade of the Confederate States, which starved the English mills of raw material—a bubble that ultimately transformed Bombay from a backwater marsh into the wealthy metropolis it is today. I wonder what future ironies we have in store, for a future “Bharat.”