Kids’ wellness has taken a turn into questionable territory

Even before COVID-19, health professionals have seen children struggling with their mental and physical health. The pandemic only intensifies it.

“The [child and adolescent mental health] David Anderson, a clinical psychologist at the Children’s Mind Institute. “We are lacking in available care and access to resources.”

Rising rates of anxiety and depression have spurred educators and industry to to support children with self-management tools. Schools run a variety of wellness courses, seminars and dedicated rooms that teach everything from nutrition to yoga. Teachers are incorporating mindfulness and breathing exercises at the start of class.

Colin Sharkey, chief executive of Assn, said: “There is a deeper awareness of the enormous pressures and challenges that children increasingly face. of American Educators. “Unless you tackle some [issues]It is very difficult to have a healthy learning environment where you focus on learning.

Overall, most school initiatives are commended for teaching children with mental illness how to better take care of their health. But a small percentage of complaints – which do not reflect the majority of initiatives – show how nuanced, complex and sensitive health education can be. On social media, a cursory scan shows parents lamenting tests that “grade” students about their health, which in turn are a cause of more stress. . Another parent feels that placing too much emphasis on mental health conditions can put pressure on the child’s development. “[My daughter] think she suppose to have something [mentally] Wrong for her,” one mother wrote on Twitter.

Mental health problems are on the rise faster for girls than boys, so ideas about health may come to girls earlier and more often. For example, teenage girls learn about the latest fashion or wellness products through TikTok and Instagram influencers, and even tween magazines. Katie Hurley, a child and adolescent psychotherapist in El Segundo and author of “No More Mean Girls: The Secret to Raise the Strong, Confident and Rive Girls,” says the girls Girls are picking up crystals, engaging in astrology, and applying masks regularly (to the point of drying out their skin). Not that these activities are intrinsically disturbing. Rather, the rampant messages that continuously target girls are having unpredictable consequences.

Girls get the message that “you need to exercise, you need to eat healthy, you need to take care of yourself. “Self-care becomes a job,” says Hurley. “This is how they are told they will succeed: if you manage yourself, if you “calm down. “Some teenage patients told her they ‘didn’t have time’ for all these activities.

The message that parents really need is that they don’t need the things that help their children lead a healthy life.

– Susan Linn, author of “Children’s Consumption”

Involving all of this self-care is another matter. In 2020, Mattel released the Barbie Wellness Collection to introduce “girls to the benefits of self-care through play”. That means Barbie focuses on personal happiness with what Barbie does best: accessories. She has a yoga mat, a stylish tracksuit, seven face masks, a jar of lotion, and even a smoothie stand. Through Barbie’s archive of “good things,” health is equated with fit shopping, narrowing down on health to consumers and stereotypes based on appearance.

“The message that parents really need is that they don’t need things to help their child lead a healthy life,” says psychologist Susan Linn, a research associate at Boston Children’s Hospital and author of the study. author of “Children’s Consumption” said. “But the goal of marketers is to convince customers that their happiness lies in some product that can be bought.”

If Mattel called it a spa collection, that would be less controversial. But by calling it “health” and linking it to health, we turn these activities into something more of a load. However, a Mattel spokesperson said, “We are proud to launch a line that celebrates the wellness trends girls see around them at home, school and beyond. “.

Barbie health may lack what true holistic health entails. Dr. Eugene V. Beresin, executive director of the Clay Center for Healthy Young Minds at Massachusetts General Hospital, said the iconic doll doesn’t convey anything important about relationships. relationships, identity development or social support. “You cannot be happy without friends, peers and parents. We are packing animals. ”

Likewise, Barbie’s YouTube channel – with over 10 million subscribers – suggests that a single individual can overcome negative emotions and stress. The Self-Care video collection shows America’s best blondes dealing with issues like “feeling green” and expressing vulnerabilities in an easy-to-understand way. But she mainly recommends breathing exercises, journaling, beauty rituals, and meditation. Such activities, along with the use of the creative arts, can in fact help people prevent and deal with anxiety, mental health experts explain. The problem is overemphasizing them as the main solutions.

This has long been a criticism directed at the healthcare industry. Individual responsibility is important, but the idea that we alone can manage health does not concern ourselves with community support and dealing with outside forces. Or, at worst, it shows that a person is stressed or depressed because they are not prioritizing bubble baths.

Nancy McDermott, author of The Parenting Problem: Parenting is Changing Across America. ”

illustration of Peloton children's health care kit advertisement "spinning bike Jr." and other accessories

(Zack Rosebrugh / For The Times) Kids’ wellness has taken a turn into questionable territory

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