Chasing Childhood explores a phenomenon affecting kids from a broad range of socioeconomic backgrounds. Free play and independence have all but disappeared, supplanted by relentless perfectionism and record high anxiety and depression. What’s lost goes well beyond our idyllic conceptions of childhood past. When kids don’t play unsupervised by adults, they don’t gain critical life skills: grit, independence, and resourcefulness. Though they may appear more accomplished on paper, by the time they get to college they are often falling apart, lacking the emotional tools to navigate young adulthood.
Meet the Eason family who imagined the perfect life they could give their child, Savannah, if they just did everything right. When Savannah is finally hospitalized in high school, they are forced to reevaluate not just their own values but those of the culture at large. In doing so, Genevieve Eason becomes an unwitting community activist fighting to reframe society's definition of success and take back childhood in Wilton, Connecticut.
At the same time, in the working-class district of Patchogue, NY, school Superintendent Michael Hynes struggles to add recess, meditation, and a longer lunch period to combat his own epidemic of anxiety and behavioral issues among students. Uniting Wilton and Patchogue is Lenore Skenazy, founder of the Free-Range Kids movement, who provides the model for introducing "Let Grow” child-driven independence projects to both towns. Her own work takes her inside NY city public schools where we get to witness these projects in action as kids prove they are capable beyond what they ever imagined.
Throughout these stories we explore how we got here and how we might eschew harmful parenting strategies and empower our kids. Potential solutions are offered by the leaders of this movement, including former Stanford Dean and author of How to Raise an Adult Julie Lythcott-Haims, Biological Psychologist Peter Gray and others.
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