Chasing Childhood is a feature length documentary that explores how free play and independence have all but disappeared from kids’ lives, supplanted by relentless perfectionism and record high anxiety and depression. What’s lost goes well beyond our idyllic conceptions of childhood past. Free play, unsupervised by adults, is critical for developing essential life skills: grit, independence, and resourcefulness. Many young adults appear more accomplished on paper, but by the time they get to college they are struggling, and lacking the emotional tools to be more independent.
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 so doing, 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 longer a 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.
The film explores how helicopter parenting became the norm in many communities across the United States and interweaves potential solutions to letting go and empowering our kids. The film features 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.