I wish I could properly reference the information I’m about to share, but I only caught the end of an interview on CBC radio as I was getting into my car – if anyone else knows about this research, please comment below!
They were discussing the struggles with depression and anxiety that so many teens face, and how rapidly the diagnoses of these two things is skyrocketing in our youth. The researcher was talking about how this is NOT a worldwide phenomenon. The woman being interviewed said that it is only in societies that recognize adolescence as a distinct phase of life that see this trend. She says that in many societies, people are recognized as adults at the age of 12 or 13, and that they are treated with the same rights and responsibilities as other adults. She said that in these societies, there are very low rates of depression and anxiety. She proposed that the problem in our society is not that we are overloading our kids, as many believe, but rather, that we are limiting the freedom of our youth unnecessarily by infantilizing them. She says that by treating them as incapable and in need of adults to control their decision-making, we are preventing youth from functioning fully.
She wasn’t suggesting that this means we should stop parenting at age 12. But what she was suggesting was that we should be doing less setting rules and enforcing consequences and more discussing with our kids the many perspectives and options available to them, and encouraging them to think for themselves to make their own decisions.
This conversation grabbed my attention for a few reasons. First, because I think this is exactly why Restitution works – because it is not about controlling another person, it’s about strengthening them so that they become more independent.
But the other reason it grabbed me was because it made me think about what happens when our basic needs are compromised.
I’ve heard many people say that mental illness is about a chemical imbalance, or that physical illnesses are about germs and viruses. Although these obviously play a role – is it really the whole story? I know that when I’m happy and things are going great, I don’t seem to get the flu as easily as when I’m feeling overwhelmed and unhappy. How much of our physical and mental illnesses might be our body’s way of alerting us that our basic needs of fun, freedom, power and belonging are terribly out of balance in our lives?