UPPER SADDLE RIVER, N.J. — Two experts will come to Upper Saddle River next month to discuss a disturbing reality: anxiety is running rampant among children and teens.
Cynthia Allman and Cathleen George, both of the Newmark Schools, will present “What Parents Need to Know About Children and the Anxiety Epidemic.”
The event is scheduled for 7 p.m. March 23 at the Cavallini Middle School.
Adult anxiety is spilling into the lives of the young, said Allman, who works with the issue every day.
The Newmark schools in Scotch Plains – one grade school, one high school – are state-approved and private.
A total of 170 students are educated there, all with some emotional or developmental disorder. Newmark is a national model on teaching such youth.
Today financial and technological pressures have parents in a vice, Allman suggested.
They have fewer children and higher economic, spiritual and educational aspirations for raising them than in past generations, she said.
But they also have half the time they’d like to devote to each kid.
It’s not a blame game, Allman said. It’s just the way life has developed.
“People are afraid of getting left behind in this great big race,” she said.
“Parents are always asking themselves, Am I doing enough to keep afloat and have my children have a better life than me? ”
Children pick up on the tension.
Statistics show, Allman said, that half the students who are age 5 to 18 today will have a diagnosable mental illness — a range of them — at some point in their lives.
In the present, anxiety is manifesting in kids in a variety of ways:
- They avoid their work so they don’t put themselves at risk by trying something new;
- They refuse to go to school;
- They won’t take tests because they’re afraid they won’t know the answers;
- Their sense of perfectionism leads to not turning in assignments or body dysmorphic issues;
- They exhibit physical symptoms, including headaches, stomach aches, sleeping issues, and eating issues.
- They exhibit a host of behavioral problems, too, including hostility.
“Teachers see a lot of issues around control,” George said, to the extent students will try to get teachers to change homework assignments.
Educators, the Newmark experts emphasize, encounter all of this every single day.
“We hear the same things, no matter what area of New Jersey we go to,” George said.
“Everywhere, the anxiety level is so high.”
The team will point to constructive ways to deal with the problem, including maintaining a clear line between adult and kid concerns.
The March 23 event is cosponsored by the Allendale, Ho-Ho-Kus, Northern Highlands Regional and the Upper Saddle River school districts.