Rachel Flynn, a professor of child development and therapist, recently testified in support of Nevada’s “Reasonable Childhood Independence” bill, saying that over her 23 years in practice she has seen kids in decline as their unstructured, unsupervised time evaporated.
This, she testified, was across the board:
The decade prior to my doctorate I was a director of youth development programs working closely with children and families from diverse backgrounds — ethnicities, socioeconomic status, urban and rural populations. The children I’ve worked with also range in their cognitive abilities — the gifted and talented as well as those who are non-verbal with severe intellectual delays.
Regardless of these differences, adults were doing ever more for their kids, and trusting them with less freedom. At this went on, kids were getting more depressed and anxious. This was true of rich kids, poor kids, kids with disabilities and those without.
The antidote, Flynn believes, is simple: Trusting kids to do more — handle more, absorb more, try more, bounce back from more — while loving and cherishing them just as much as ever. Parents can’t do this unless they are sure that giving their kids some old-fashioned independence will not be mistaken for neglect. Nevada’s “Reasonable Childhood Independence” law does just that — tells parents that, unless they are grossly under-estimating peril or over-estimating their child’s abilities — giving their kids some freedom is no cause for government intervention. (This frees child protective services up, too — allowing them more time to investigate serious cases.)