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Therapy and sanity for ordinary parents of special kids.

Are You More Anxious Than a 5th Grader?

katieandgina

Katie and Gina Gallagher speaking to 5th grade students in North Andover, MA about the challenges of growing up with differences.

“Kids today have it so easy!”

I can’t remember how many times I heard that one from my parents as a kid. But anyone who is raising a child today knows that ain’t true. 

Kids today have a TON to worry about.

It’s a lesson that my 21-year-old daughter, Katie, and I learned just yesterday when we traveled to North Andover, Massachusetts to speak to 5th-grade students at Franklin Elementary School. The talk was part of the school’s adoption of the “Understanding Our Differences” program aimed at providing education on autism, learning disabilities, deafness, and intellectual and physical disabilities. 

As Katie shared her academic and social challenges in elementary school and the worries she had growing up, the children were eager to share their worries. They had plenty:

I worry about my future and whether I will go to college. 

I worry about making friends.

I worry about not finishing my work. 

I worry about making mistakes. 

I worry about not having the right answers. 

I worry if kids will like me. 

I worry about what I’m wearing.

I worry about my parents. 

I worry something will happen to my kitten.

I worry I will miss a penalty kick in soccer.

I worry about Donald Trump. 

What surprised me, a 50-year-old adult, was that I could relate to so many of them. One worry in particular sent shivers up my spine…

“I worry the New England Patriots are gonna lose on Sunday.” 

And when Katie told the kids about the differences she had in elementary school — difficulty making friends, hand flapping, and academic challenges — the children bravely shared their own. Once again, the responses were surprisingly mature and very similar to differences many adults (myself included) frequently express:

I’m fat.

I don’t hear very well. 

I’m not good in math.

I’m terrible at sports.

I’m too tall.

I’m too short. 

We closed the discussion by asking the kids what they could do to help a struggling or lonely classmate with challenges similar to Katie’s:  

I will smile at them if they feel sad or lonely. 

I will help them with their math.

I will invite them to play with me at recess. 

I won’t leave them out when I have my birthday party.

I’ll ask them to play basketball with me.

I’ll share my Pokemon cards. 

I’ll sit with them at lunch if they are all alone. 

So sorry Mom and Dad; you were wrong. Kids today really don’t have it easy.  But thanks to the kind fifth-grade boys and girls at the Franklin Elementary School, life just might get a little bit easier for some.

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