While watching ‘Chasing Childhood‘, I couldn’t help but reflect on my own childhood and upbringing. I’m not the kind of person who judges people’s parenting, but you can definitely notice a shift in behaviour with kids back in the 90s and 00s, and those growing up now. Oh wow, I’ve become one of those people.

A 2018 news report states that 30% of students suffer from the effects of stress. These can manifest in physical signs of anxiety (headaches, stomachaches, etc.) or even depression. In Wilton, Connecticut, we meet Genevieve and Rob Eason, two parents who we’ll get to know a lot better throughout this documentary. Their daughter Savannah enrolled in every course that was being offered at the school she attended. The well-meaning parents and teachers all encouraged her to succeed, pushing her to be the best she could be. The years of pressure lead to Genevieve’s academically successful daughter’s mental illness giving way to self harm and addiction. Now a political activist and community educator, Genevieve has made it her goal to restore free play in childhood.

Chasing Childhood‘ puts a spotlight on the dangers of helicopter parenting of American children, in the pursuit of creating an impressive resumé of extracurricular activities to wow admission boards. The constant overprotecting and depraving today’s children of their childhood, gets discussed by education professionals and reformed helicopter parents who seek and offer solutions for developing more confident, independent young people while restoring some joy and freedom to childhood and finding ways for children and teens to find true happiness outside of attending a top college.

Margaret Munzer Loeb and Eden Wurmfeld‘s directorial debut is captivating and educational, putting the facts right in front of you. It becomes clear that a lot of American children no longer play outside after school. Founder of Let Grow, and author of ‘Free Range Kids‘, Lenore Skenazy talks to children in an honest and open way, giving us as a viewer both sides of the conversation. Some kids’ opinions on their daily schedules are rather sad to witness. I felt lucky, knowing that I was able to grow up in a time and place where I got the chance to explore and learn from my mistakes. It seems like that constant pressure to perform isn’t only coming from parents, but also from society who’s constantly raising the bar, making it almost impossible for today’s kids to enjoy their childhood. Instead they have to think about their future, by being successful NOW they might get a chance at happiness LATER in life.

But is it really worth it to mortgage your kids’ childhood in order for the chance of the grand future we have in mind for them? Julie Lythcott-Haims, former dean of Stanford U and author of ‘How To Raise an Adult‘, explores these topics with the reality and expertise of her daily life. As she rightfully claims, “it’s a debt that can never be repaid.” Just like Skenazy, Lythcott-Haims knows the dangers of this kind of parenting, warning parents how “overprotectiveness is a danger in itself.

Of course it’s not the directors and interviewees’ goal to blame and shame all parents out there, but instead to look at the source of this problem and fully dissect the origin of parents’ fear, by researching ways on how to solve this style of parenting. The facts and numbers being presented surely help on how to educate ourselves, especially when you know there’s an educational and societal problem that needs to be reformed altogether.

Chasing Childhood is a powerful statement on today’s ways of parenting and the deprivation of American children’s freedom. Although this documentary solely focuses on the problems in the US, there’s parts that definitely speak on a more global level. Thought-provoking and eye-opening, ‘Chasing Childhood‘ might just help the next generation of kids in the fight for their right to play. Seriously parents, let go, it’s going to be fine.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

2020 DOC NYC Review – ‘Chasing Childhood’

Reviewed online (screener provided by publicist – also screening at 2020 DOC NYC), November 11, 2020. Rating: TBC. Running time: 80 min.

PRODUCTION: An MML Productions production. Producers: Lisa Eisenpresser, Eden Wurmfeld. Executive producer: Margaret Munzer Loeb.

CREW: Directors: Margaret Munzer Loeb, Eden Wurmfeld. Editing: Mary Ann Toman. Cinematography: Justin Schein. Score: David Cieri.

WITH: Genevieve Eason, Savannah Eason, Julie Lythcott-Haims, Peter Gray, Lenore Skenazy, Dr. Michael Hynes.

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