Are too many activities really helping our kids succeed, or are they just creating extra stress? We took a closer look at risk factors for stress in children and have some great tips to avoid them!
It seems like stress affects everyone these days, even our kids! We try to give them the best opportunities through many childhood activities, but is this the best approach? Some studies show that less-structured activities, like doing simple chores and giving kids responsibilities around the house, might make them happier and more successful later in life.
After-school tutoring, private Mandarin Chinese lessons, football practice, year-round swim team, and let’s throw some piano lessons in there, too. Where does it end? It’s no wonder that American children are stressed out! Few adults could cope with these demands, so it's no wonder the weight of childhood stress can be so heavy! The quantity of activities also strains parents who have to pay for and drive to all of these extra enrichment opportunities--on top of their own home and work commitments. Yikes!
The carefree images of an idyllic childhood with children happily playing sometimes seem to be a relic of the past. Instead, many American children are described as stressed out, overscheduled, and too busy. Sadly, many kids today also experience behavioral disorders and exhibit symptoms of emotional distress.
So what’s a parent to do? On the one hand, you want your child to excel in school, and have a great career down the road. On the other hand, you don’t want your child to suffer from anxiety, depression, mental health disorders, or too much pressure. You want your child to be a healthy, happy, well-balanced individual.
So here are five steps to fight the stressed-out lifestyle while also encouraging your child’s personal growth.
One year I planned an elaborate art birthday party for my 6-year-old daughter. I brought in an art instructor, and all the little girls made personalized painted
tiles. After the party, I asked her what her favorite part was. She said, "playing with my friends in my room!"
She didn’t care about anything else but just wanted unstructured free time. So many kids make their greatest memories just hanging out with friends, and using their imaginations to find fun things to do.
If they’re bored at home, great! Encourage them to read, write, or create something extraordinary. These breaks from constant stimulation will do wonders for their happiness and quality of life. It will also fuel creative development in a way no structured class could.
They might complain when they have to weed the garden or make their beds, but according to a University of Minnesota study, the best predictor for young adult success was whether they participated in household chores at ages 3 and 4.
Other studies indicate that children who do chores are happier later in life. So while your friends might love to let you know how brilliantly their 4-year-old can play the cello, simple skills, like teaching your child to make the bed, might have an even greater payoff later.
Just because everyone else is going to the expensive dance academy or buying designer clothes doesn’t mean that your child has to, too. While it’s important to equip your child with the essentials, your life should not revolve around their every whim.
Setting boundaries, and even saying "no" to fun things might actually take the stress off of your child since they know that they’re not the ones in charge. They can just be a kid, not the parent. This paradigm shift will also reduce your stress level since you won’t have to spend your extra energy catering to the demands of your child.
Kids can tell how their parents and caregivers are feeling. If you’re overtired and burned out, your child might internalize some of that pressure, too. Even simple things like eating well, exercising, and getting enough sleep can do wonders towards reducing your stress level. When you’re relaxed, they’ll relax, thus reducing stress in your children. Even if your child feels extra pressure and anxiety, you will be far more effective in assisting them when you feel calm and healthy.
Doing fun things with your children is a great way for all of you to relax as a family together. The planning and preparation can be stressful, but usually, the value of a shared experience far outweighs the effort. You can also find activity ideas on the FamilyApp, which can make the planning process a little easier.
In addition to doing something fun, these shared experiences are a great way to improve your child's confidence. When you spend time with them, when you're not overly burdened with work, they know that they are important to you. This knowledge boosts their self-esteem, which in turn, can reduce stress.
Whether we like it or not, we live in a performance society. Social media continues to fuel this pressure, but children are not human capital that has to be trained in a strategic way.
When you empower your child with healthy boundaries, free time to be bored, and life skills gained by doing chores, you will reduce your family’s stress, and improve your quality of life. More importantly, you’ll better prepare them for life than any fancy underwater basket-weaving camp ever could!