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Childhood: It’s a Tough World After All

photo of crayons

It’s isn’t easy being 4. Or 7. Or 11. Or 14. Children today deal with many tougher, more serious issues than kids did 20 years ago. “The concept of childhood, so vital to the traditional American way of life, is threatened with extinction in the society we have created,” says David Elkind in his book, The Hurried Child. “Today’s child has become the unwilling, unintended victim of overwhelming stress.”

For too many kids, this is not the age of innocence.

I live in a middle-class neighborhood with a top-notch public school system. (St. Louis Park High School ranked 156 in Newsweek magazine’s America’ Top Public High Schools.) Our community was one of the first asset-building initiatives to start in the country. In St. Louis Park, we put children first.

Yet, I still hear about kids in our community who are struggling with big issues. One high school student was working full time to help his parents pay the bill—while trying to fulfill his dream of going to college. A grade-student student lost her mother to a drug overdose. A teenage soccer player asked his teammates if he could live with someone because his family was spread out all over the country, and his grades were suffering because he had to commute 90 minutes each way to school and work on a number of city busses.

Other kids, who have loving families, scramble to keep up academically—and with schedules that make my head spin.

What happened to times of silliness? Where are the long hours of reading a good book? Why has inviting a friend over to play become such an unusual experience for kids today?

I think it’s time to slow down. To spend time together, playing, reading, and hanging out. It’s time, as the singer Raffi says, “To shake our sillies out and wiggle our waggles away.”

Written by Jolene Roehlkepartain.