As time passes, we get further and further away from the carefree afternoons and summers that used to be part of childhood. When I was growing up, most kids walked home from school. We would have a snack and then get together to ride bikes, swim, play barbies, etc. There were very few organized sports. Dance or music might be once or twice a week; no competition, just recitals. There was no need for after school programs or daycare.
Over the years, kids have gotten more and more busy. Parents often mention keeping their kids busy so they can’t get into trouble. Unfortunately, I think that has backfired. Not only do kids still find ways to get into trouble, but now there is disconnection in homes like I’ve never seen before. It has snuck up on us.
It’s not just the afternoons that are busy. Mornings are crazy for families too. With both parents working, the timeline is tight and starts early! Sadly, new babies often have only six weeks at home before they are off to daycare at 6am. That begins their 18-year stint of spending more time with caregivers than they do with their parents. It’s no wonder parent-child relationships are often strained. This pace is not just the weekdays either.
What I have noticed in working with children of all ages is that they are overwhelmed and exhausted. Every day is not only busy, but school has daily learning curves. New information is shoveled in as completed assignments are shoveled out, while many are also managing the pressure of competitive sports. If you have more than one child in an activity, you are literally an Uber driver.
When we are tired, we are not at our best. When we are stressed, we can snap back instead of having patience. It’s the same with our kids. When every minute is spoken for, no one has room for moods, emotions, meltdowns … even if they are warranted (death in the family, friend moves, family splitting apart). We push it down and move forward, teaching our kids a very unhealthy habit. They are learning that this is just how life is, but it hasn’t always been this way. We used to have time to breathe.
How do kids deal with stuffed feelings, fatigue, overwhelm, and the fast and constant pace? Drugs, vaping, cutting, other self-harm, sleep issues, depression, and then meds to deal with the “mental health issues.” Yet, many of those “mental health issues” are the body saying STOP. As a society, we do not teach our kids to listen to their body. We teach them to keep pushing forward. We talk about self-care, but we model self-destruction.
The solution is simple, but not always easy. Here are three tips:
- Incorporate down time into your family’s schedule.
- Let teachers know if homework takes too long or causes a lot of fighting. It’s not worth losing your relationship over.
- Let coaches know if your child needs a break (just one practice off can be helpful). They are kids! Sports, dance, music … they started it because of the FUN and JOY. Don’t let them lose that. That JOY will help them find balance in their life as they grow up.
No one will advocate for your child like you do. If you are not advocating for them, no one is. Communication is KEY. Listen. Brainstorm. Be willing to go against the grain. Our system does not work. Teach your child how to listen to their body, while also being responsible and accountable in life. They need to breathe and experience JOY, or the generation that follows will have an even harder time finding life balance.
Traci Williams is the CEO of A Loving Way to Parent. She is known for her intuitive and practical parenting style. Feel free to schedule a free 15-minute phone consultation.