Anxiety, Depression, and Helplessness Increase When Children Can’t Play


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Article re-posted from Health Day. All rights reserved by Health Day and author Jenifer Goodwin.

Less Play Time = More Troubled Kids, Experts Say
Adult interference may deprive children of needed challenges, not to mention fun

best friends (diversity)

September 22, 2011
By Jenifer Goodwin HealthDay Reporter
THURSDAY, Sept. 22 (HealthDay News) —

From hide-and-seek to tearing around the neighborhood with friends, playing is one of the hallmarks of childhood. But in this era of hyper-vigilant parenting, researchers find that children in the United States have far less time to play than kids of 50 years ago, a trend that may have serious consequences for their development and mental health.

“Into the 1950s, children were free to play a good part of their childhood. If you stayed in your house around your mom, she’d say ‘go out and play.’ The natural place for a kid was outside,” said Peter Gray, a research professor of psychology at Boston College.

“Today, it’s quite the opposite. Parents are not allowing kids the freedom to play. And even if they do, there are no other kids out there to play with, or the mother may have such restrictions on the child, such as ‘you can’t go out of the yard’ that the kids don’t want to stay out there,” added Gray.

When kids are allowed to play, they make up games, negotiate rules and make sure others are playing fair. All of that helps to teach children how to make decisions, to solve problems and gain self-control. Children who have too many emotional outbursts or who insist on getting their way too often quickly learn they need to change their behavior if they want to continue to be welcomed into the group, Gray said.

Through free play, “they are acquiring the basic competencies we ultimately need to become adults,” said Gray, author of two studies published recently in the American Journal of Play. But since the mid-1950s, adults have played an increasingly larger role in their children’s activities, to the detriment of their kids’ mental health, Gray said. And, playing organized sports with a coach or other adult directing the activity doesn’t replace “free” play that’s directed by kids, he noted.

Research suggests that today’s children are more likely to experience anxiety, depression, feelings of helplessness and narcissism, all of which coincides with a decrease in play and more monitoring and managing of children’s activities by parents, he wrote in this special journal issue devoted to the decline in free play.
For boys, in particular, rough-and-tumble play helps teach emotional regulation, said Peter LaFreniere, a professor of developmental psychology at the University of Maine, in a separate article. Boys learn that if they want to keep their friend, they can’t let things go too far or truly hurt the other child — a skill that helps boys grow into men who keep aggression and anger in check, LaFreniere said.

“It’s better to make the mistakes when you’re 4,” he said. “Children learn there are consequences to their actions; they learn to regulate the aggression even in the heat of the moment.”

Despite a growing chorus from experts about the importance of play for kids’ mental and physical well-being, research indicates the amount of time kids are playing has declined significantly. One survey Gray cited asked a nationally representative sample of parents to keep track of their kids’ activities on a randomly selected day in 1981 and another in 1997. The researchers found that 6- to 8-year olds of 1997 played about 25 percent less than that age group in 1981.

Another study from about a decade ago asked 830 U.S. mothers to compare their children’s play with their own play when they were kids. While about 70 percent of the mothers reported playing outdoors daily as children, just 31 percent said their own kids did. Mothers also said when their kids played outside, they stayed outside for less time. If anything, that trend has accelerated in the ensuing decade, Gray said.

So what’s keeping kids indoors? Fear of abduction is a big one, followed by worries about kids getting hit by cars and bullies, surveys have found. Those fears have created legions of overprotective parents rearing “wimps” who are unable to cope with the ups and downs of life because they have no experience doing so, said Hara Estroff Marano, the New York-based author of the book A Nation of Wimps: The High Cost of Invasive Parenting.
“The home of the brave has given way to the home of the fearful, the entitled, the risk averse, and the narcissistic,” Marano said. “Today’s young, at least in the middle class and upper class, are psychologically fragile,” Marano said in an interview published in the journal.

Hovering parents, these researchers said, also deprive their children of something else — joy. One survey found that 89 percent of children preferred outdoor play with friends to watching TV.

“Parents have to remember that childhood is this special time. You only get it once, and you don’t want to miss it,” LaFreniere said. “Mixing it up with other kids in an unrestrained manner isn’t just fun. It isn’t a luxury. It’s part of nature’s plan.”

More information
The American Occupational Therapy Association talks about important aspects of play.
Copyright © 2011 HealthDay. All rights reserved.


Author Marcia Sherman’s Splendid Blended Family Featured on The Shriver Report


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Here is an inspiring story from author Marcia Sherman. This article is currently featured on the website: The Shriver Report. It will bring to tears and inspire your inner courage.

Marcia A. Sherman resides in a two-generation, two-cat household in Southern New Jersey. Employed full-time in the public sector, her pastime and passion is writing. With help from her blended and extended family, Marcia has raised one perfect Rose.
My Splendid, Blended Family

Illustrated Children’s Book on Childhood Anxiety Debut’s South Jersey Artist


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The recent successful release of Sweet Pickles, The Girl Who Would Not Speak, by author Deborah A. Beasley, features the artistic impressions of local South Jersey artist, Roy L. Cook, Sr. Deborah knew when she began writing the new series to focus on the unique needs of children, she wanted to feature artists never before published. She found a hidden gem in Roy L. Cook.

Illustrator Roy L. Cook

Illustrator Roy L. Cook

“Roy is an excellent artist, and now a published illustrator!” announces Deborah. When author Deborah A. Beasley put the word out that she was looking for an illustrator for her new children’s book, she did not know where it would lead. From three contenders, Roy’s illustrations won her over.

“Roy’s interpretation of the main character in the story is sweet and believable. He has brought Sweet Pickles to life, and given her the right amount of vulnerability,” says Deborah. “Roy’s expressive drawings make Sweet Pickles lovable.”Sweet Pickles, The Girl Who Would Not Speak

Roy may be new to the literary art world, but his paintings and drawings have steadily filtered throughout New Jersey and across the states over the past years. Roy shows expertise with any medium, whether water color or pastel. His love for art shines in his work.
Artist Roy L. Cook
(c) Roy L. Cook

Roy L. Cooks many accomplishments include some of the following:
Roy is the beloved Pastor of Gospel Tabernacle Church in Gibbstown, New Jersey, since 2007. Roy continues to transform the church with programs focused on lifting the church and creating a united healing community. Roy’s wife, Monica Moore Cook, serves as First Lady of the congregation and minister of music among her many other duties. Monica also teaches at Paulsboro High School. Three children and a niece complete their family.

Roy currently attends Gloucester County Community College, and is pursuing a teaching degree in Art Education.

Tips to Soothe the Heart and Soul of Childhood Anxiety and Selective Mutism


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(c) 2014 Deborah A. Beasley

If you are the parent of an anxious child, or a child so overwhelmed with fears it renders them unable to speak in certain situations, you are not alone. The root of selective mutism is often trauma and fear. Soothe the fear, create safety for the child, and they will learn to speak freely. Research shows most children first diagnosed with social anxiety or selective mutism are between the ages of four and eight. As the search for answers ensues and therapies begin, parents and teachers wonder what they can do to lessen their child’s anxiety. Below are a few things to remember when raising and working with a child with social anxiety.

Soften the Fear and Reduce Key Stressors

  • Decrease or temporarily eliminate overwhelming and stressful situations
  • Increase emotional comfort through a consistent, stable and supportive environment
  • Reassure children by your soothing presence and understanding
  • Increase sensory comfort and calm the internal child (favorite toy or blanket, soft clothing – no tags or seams, decrease harsh lighting and sudden or loud noises. In very stressful situations, children may be comforted by a certain food item, usually a sweet)
  • Look for subtle and overt cues of distress (i.e. a frozen or emotionless face, retreating to a corner, hiding under furniture, refusing to leave the car, averting eyes or no eye contact, frozen stature, incessant chatter, obsessive movements)
  • Children need immediate attention, intervention, and security when they display feelings of overwhelm, such as yelling, inflexible or obstinate behaviors, screaming, intense crying, fear or trembling, throwing things, hitting, or are physically struggling.
  • Ideal interventions begin with early interruption before children become overwhelmed; this permits caregivers an easier path to calming, redirecting, reassuring, and regulating the child.

The Never-Evers

  • Never place demands or conditions on children to speak
  • Never judge or belittle children for not being able to speak
  • Never use punishment, isolation, or scolding to threaten or frighten children into responding
  • Never allow personal frustration or disappointment to influence how you treat children
  • Using the above tactics on children with anxiety disorders will worsen symptoms, delay healing, and negatively reinforce unintended patterns of behavior.

Just as Pickles’ mom taught her to sign to help her communicate more effectively until she could speak, parents will discover the best ways to soothe the heart and soul of anxiety in their children. Rather than molding the child to meet life, we sculpt life to meet the child. We trust the child will ultimately be able to grow into the life that surrounds them.

For more information on childhood anxiety disorders contact:

ADAA- The Anxiety and Depression Association of America

The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association

The Selective Mutism Foundation

(Excerpt from the NEW book: Sweet Pickles The Girl Who Would Not Speak, available on

New Children’s Book Addresses Selective Mutism and Childhood Anxiety


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Sweet Pickles
Press Release


Pitman, New Jersey — June 9, 2014 — A new children’s picture book written by a mental health educator addresses the struggles of a child with selective mutism, childhood anxiety and social phobia.

“Sweet Pickles: The Girl Who Would Not Speak” is a 36-page, full-color paperback written by parenting coach, writer and educator Deborah A. Beasley and illustrated by Roy L. Cook.

Author Deborah A. Beasley

Author Deborah A. Beasley

Illustrator Roy L. Cook

Illustrator Roy L. Cook

The book is now available at, at the pre-publication price.

Sweet Pickles is the first book to be released in a series to focus on special needs. Each book will have a therapeutic element, with tips and resources for parents, teachers and clinicians.

Here is a book that begins to soothe the heart and soul of children with social anxiety. Well written!