Friday, January 28, 2011

How Can We Help Our Children Feel Better about Themselves?

It's never good to worry and stew. It's never good to be depressed. But somehow it's even worse when it's a young person who's affected.

Two friends pointed out this article to me. It's about the emotional health of college freshmen -- the lowest it has been in 25 years, when the annual survey was started.

These students -- only 52 percent of whom feel their emotional health is above average -- come to campus under stress. Some are even already taking medication to ease their pain. The economy isn't helping, as they worry about the cosst of college, their own diminished outlooks for jobs and the debt they have taken on to get an education that may not land them any job, let alone a fulfilling (and maybe even decently paying) position.

What's even more upsetting to me as the mother of a girl is that the gap between boys' and girls' emotional health is widening -- and not in the girls' favor. They were more likely to seek help from campus professionals than boys -- but they were also less likely to do the activities that might ease stress, such as sports and exercise and more likely to do volunteer work, help out their families, activities which may not help with stress relief.

And I found this comment by one of the researchers equally upsetting. "Women’s sense of emotional well-being was more closely tied to how they felt the faculty treated them,” she said. “It wasn’t so much the level of contact as whether they felt they were being taken seriously by the professor. If not, it was more detrimental to women than to men.”

She added: “And while men who challenged their professor’s ideas in class had a decline in stress, for women it was associated with a decline in well-being.”

The economy will recover, though there will be long-term ramifications that will greatly affect our children's futures. But what I want to know is why our girls still feel this way in the classroom, the way I sometimes did decades ago.

Thanks to Andrea Axelrod and Amy Engel for passing this news along.

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