The Flood Zone
The Flood Zone
1 in 6 children meet the criteria for a mental health disorder. By adulthood that number will double.
By Allison Edwards
In 2019, the World Happiness Organization reported the United States was the least happy it has ever been. One of the reporters said, “By most accounts, Americans should be happier now than ever. The violent crime rate is low, as is the unemployment rate. Income per capita has steadily grown over the past few decades.” That report was released the same year our country spent $225 billion on mental health treatment. That was before we experienced a global pandemic, social and political unrest, and a complete shutdown of our country. As you might expect, things have gotten even worse.
Since the pandemic began, drinking rates have increased 55%. Prescription medications to treat anxiety and depression have increased 34%. Divorce rates have also increased 34%. While these numbers are staggering, children have suffered the most in the past year. Children ages 11-17 have been more likely than any other age group to exhibit moderate to severe symptoms of anxiety and depression. 60% of these children have gone without treatment. In September 2020, over half of children ages 11-17 reported thoughts of suicide or self-harm. We could blame this on the state of our world, but we had a mental health problem in this country long before the pandemic.
The root of our mental health problem lies in our discomfort with emotions. As a culture, we don’t value emotions and are critical of those who take time to process them. If a loved one passes away, we are expected to be back at work within a couple of days. We don’t allow ourselves time to grieve or process emotions instead we push along, hoping they will go away. We value work and deem our worth from how successful we become to the outside world. We aren’t affirmed for becoming more emotionally adept or centered. Instead, we are affirmed for financial success, status and accomplishments. Our country was founded on the principles of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness but most of us feel chained by our work schedules, outside expectations and external pressures. While many of us exist in this mindset, we can see the damage it has done to our ourselves and our children.
It is from this desperate point in our world that I am writing my new book, Flooded: A Brain-Based Guide to Helping Children Manage Emotions. As a child psychotherapist and counselor of over 20 years, I had seen the societal impacts of emotional avoidance wreak havoc on the lives of children. I have watched children become debilitated by emotions and families fall apart due to the absence of managing emotions effectively. If we want to change this trajectory, we must help children learn how to manage emotions while they are young. We know from neuroplasticity research, the pathways we create as children will be the foundation for learning and thinking throughout our lives.
In my book, I will take you through the process of creating an emotional landscape from which children can thrive. The book begins by sharing how the brain processes emotion and goes on to teach parents, counselors, childcare workers and educators how to set up spaces to allow children to reset their brains. The book provides detailed examples of how to manage difficult situations with children and shares the language to use to reduce emotional intensity. Whether you’re a new parent, a first-year teacher or a seasoned professional; the concepts are still the same.
While you will learn a great deal about how to help children manage emotions, you will also learn how to manage your own emotions. Throughout the book, you will be asked to reflect on your own childhood experiences and how they influence your current interactions with children. You will be asked to identify your emotional triggers and how those triggers affect your interactions with others. You will learn how to identify spaces to reset your brain and how to manage your day so you can be the most effective model of emotional health for children and others in your life.
My hope is that this book transforms the way you think about emotions. I hope you will make emotions a priority in your home and workplace. I hope you will begin to implement the strategies and techniques from this book and that your relationships will dramatically improve as a result. There is no better time than to begin this journey. We owe it to our children, and we owe it to ourselves.