Even before COVID-19, health experts witnessed how children struggled with their mental and physical health. The pandemic has only intensified this.

“In [child and adolescent mental health] the situation is not improving, ”said Dr. David Anderson, a clinical psychologist at the Child Mind Institute. “We lack affordable help and access to resources.”

Rising levels of anxiety and depression have pushed educators and industry arm children with tools of self-government. The schools have a wide range of wellness courses, workshops and special rooms that teach everything from food to yoga. Teachers include mindfulness exercises and breathing exercises at the beginning of classes.

“There is a greater awareness of the tremendous pressure and challenges that children face younger and younger,” says Colin Sharkey, Assn’s chief executive. American educators. “If you don’t turn to some of them [issues]it makes it very difficult to have a healthy academic environment where you focus on learning.

In general, most school initiatives have been praised for teaching neurotic children how to take better care of their health. But a small percentage of complaints – which do not reflect most initiatives – show how subtle, complex and sensitive health education can be. On social media, a cursory scan revealed that parents were mourning tests that “assessed” students for their well-being, which unreasonably causes more stress. Another parent felt that an overemphasis on mental health could cause children to develop this. “[My daughter] thinks she is supposed have something [mentally] not so with her, ”one mother wrote on Twitter.

Mental health problems are on the rise rather for girls than for boys, so the idea of ​​well-being may come into the orbit of girls sooner and more often. Teenage girls, for example, will learn about the latest fashions or wellness products through TikTok and Instagram that are influential, and even teen magazines. Katie Hurley, a child and adolescent psychotherapist from El Segundo and author of “No More Evil Girls: The Secret to Raising Strong, Confident, and Compassionate Girls,” says girls collect crystals, practice astrology, and make face masks. regularly (until their skin dries). The point is not that these activities are essentially alarming. Most likely, widespread messages that are constantly directed at girls have unintended consequences.

The girls are told that they need to do sports, they need to eat properly, they need to take care of themselves. Taking care of yourself becomes work, ”says Hurley. “This is how they are told that they will be successful: if you do it yourself, if you calm down.” Several teenage patients tell her that they have “no time” for all these classes.

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

– Susan Lynn, author of Absorbing Children

Another problem is to afford all this care. In 2020, Mattel released its Barbie Wellness collection to introduce girls to the benefits of self-care through play. This meant that Barbie focused on personal well-being with what Barbie does best: accessories. She had a yoga mat, fashionable leisure clothes, seven skin care masks, lotion bottles and even a stand for fruit cocktails. With the help of the Barbie Armada, which brings well-being, health has been equated with proper shopping, narrowing health to consumer and appearance-based stereotypes.

“The message that parents really need is that they don’t need things to help their children lead healthy lives,” said psychologist Susan Lynn, a researcher at Boston Children’s Hospital and author of Consuming Children. “But the goal of marketers is to convince customers that their sense of well-being lies in some product they can buy.”

Had Mattel called it a spa collection, it would have been less controversial. But by calling it “health” and linking it to health, we are translating these classes into something more loaded. However, a Mattel spokesman said: “We are proud to have launched a line to celebrate the recovery trends that girls see next to them at home, at school and beyond.”

Barbie may be missing something that actually entails true holistic health. The cult doll does not report anything significant about relationships, identity development or social support, says Dr. Eugene V. Berasin, executive director of the Center for Young Clay Common Sense at Massachusetts General Hospital. “Without friends, peers and parents there can be no sense of well-being. We are pack animals. “

Similarly, Barbie’s YouTube channel – with more than 10 million subscribers – hints that a single person can overcome negative emotions and stress. The Self-Care video collection shows how America’s most prolific blond solves problems such as “feeling blue” and expresses vulnerabilities at close range. But mostly she recommends breathing exercises, diary keeping, beauty rituals and meditation. Such activities, along with the use of creative arts, can actually help people prevent and cope with anxiety, mental health experts explain. The problem is that they are listed as major solutions.

This has long been a critique aimed at the health industry. Personal responsibility is crucial, but the idea that we alone can manage health neglects community support and recourse to external forces. Or, at worst, it indicates that the person is stressed or depressed because they did not give priority to foam baths.

“Instead of figuring out what pressures lead to anxiety, we seem to be doing to get kids to talk about strong emotions through therapeutic language, but there’s nothing to do about it,” says Nancy McDermott, author of The Parenting Problem: How the upbringing of children is changing across America. ”

(Zack Rosebrew / For The Times)

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