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The Decline of Play and Rise in Children’s Mental Disorders

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In the last 50 to 70 years, rate and depression in young Americans have increased greatly. Today, according to some studies, the number of students of American high schools who meet the criteria of being depressed is at least 50% higher than it was a half-century ago.

The decline of Play and Rise in Children’s Disorder:

As a matter of fact, and also pointed out in several books that the freedom of children to play freely and explore on their own will, without the adults’ guidance has greatly declined in the last few decades.

Free play is important for children, as it allows them to find the solutions to their problems, develop their interests, and control their emotions. It also helps them in becoming competent in excelling in their own interests.

In fact, by definition play is the activity that is controlled solely by the players, and most importantly, it is not the extrinsic goals that are achieved by play, instead, it is directed towards intrinsic.

Unfortunately, by depriving our children to play independently without the supervision of adults – away from their control and supervision – we have deprived them of the opportunities to learn how to take control of their lives.

While doing this, we may be thinking that we are protecting our children, but in reality, we are diminishing their sense of joy and self-control. We are also preventing them from exploring and discovering things they would love to.

In fact, we are pushing them towards depression, anxiety, and other mental disorders.

Traditional Schooling and Deprivation of Personal Control:

Over the last half-century, as the free play among children has declined, school and similar-to-school activities have increased predominantly in our society.

Today, children spend more time in schools than ever before. Now, the preference is given to marks, tests, and grades.

When children are not at school, they spend more time on outdoor activities towards which they are directed, catered to, judged, ranked, protected, and most importantly, awarded by the adults. In all of these settings, those are adults who are in charge and not the children.

In the schools, children get it quickly that it is not their choice and judgment of activities that matter; it is only the teachers’ choice and judgmentthat matters.

Teachers are not predictable as well. You may work hard but still get poor grades because you didn’t understand what your teacher exactly wanted to ask.

In a typical class, the mindset of students is set not to get competence rather they only want good grades. If you give an opportunity for students to choose between real learning and a good grade, unfortunately, the majority of students would like to have a good grade.

For the disappointment, this is true for every level of the education process – from primary to the graduation level. Your child might need some help from expert psychologist.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and Jeremy Hunter carried out a study in public schools on happiness and unhappiness among the students from 6th grade to the 12th grade. The researchers gave a special wristwatch to the 828 participants from 33 different schools in 12 different communities.

The wristwatch was programmed in a way that it went out a signal to every participant at 7:30 am and 10:30 pm.

As soon as the signal went off, the participants had to fill out a questionnaire stating where they are, what they are doing, and how happy or unhappy they are at the moment.

To the surprise of the researchers, the lowest level of happiness they found among children were when they were in the schools. Whereas, the highest level of happiness occurred when the children were out of school and playing with their friends or talking with them.

The time children spent with their parent fell in the middle. On an average, the happiness was increased at weekends but then started to decrease from the Saturday afternoon (as children start thinking of going to school again).

As a society, we need to understand that the children must spend most of their time in naturally plating with their friends without the guidance of adults. Remember, nothing is more important than the happiness and mental health of our children, and we need to make them in charge of their happiness.

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